July 11, 2013

EFE revises Arica – La Paz reopening plan

Written by  Ian Thomson Newman
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CHILEAN State Railways (EFE) has revised its plans for the re-inauguration of freight services over the Chilean section of the Arica to La Paz Railway (FCALP).

FCALP ceased operations in October 2005 (apart from sporadic operations for tourists in the following months), due to the bankruptcy of the concessionaire which had been administering it.

Between 2010 and 2012, the contractor Comsa, hired by the Chilean government, rehabilitated the infrastructure and removed soil contaminated by mineral residues from land surrounding the railway in Arica. The total cost of the rehabilitation was some $US 45m. FCALP is now fully operational and trial trains have been run over it. FCALP presents significant operational difficulties, such as a winding 43km stretch where the ruling gradient is 6%.

Chile´s previous plan to tender the operation of FCALP was reliant on the success of a tender to repair the best of the existing locomotives. However, at present, EFE does not have any operable locomotives on the line. The current proposal is to allow technically-qualified operators to run trains over the railway, using their own equipment.

The most likely interested party is Bolivia´s Andina Railway (Efasa), which connects with FCALP at the border between the stations of Visviri and Charaña and has well-equipped workshop facilities at Viacha, not far from La Paz.

Any other operator would have to bring in its own, or leased, locomotives and other rolling stock, and arrange for their upkeep. Efasa is administered by Bolivian Railway Investors, a subsidiary of Antofagasta PLC, which owns the railway from the frontier between Abaroa and Ollagüe down to the Chilean Pacific coast ports of Antofagasta and Mejillones.

Infrastructure maintenance is likely to cost upwards of $US 1.5m a year, even in the absence of users, and operators will only be charged for services directly offered to them, based on the number of paths assigned to each, in a non-discriminatory manner.

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