THE Argentinian Ministry of Transport has reopened the 158km C18 Belgrano Cargas freight line between Pichanal and Río Del Valle in the northern province of Salta a decade after the line closed.

The line restores rail freight service to the towns of Pichanal and Joaquín V González, providing an important connection in the 1000mm-gauge grain corridor between the northern region and the river ports of Santa Fe and Rosario. The reopening also enables the construction of new storage facilities and rail connections along the route.

The ministry says it plans to restore the connection north to Bolivia in the future, following the reopening of the connection between Argentina’s 1435mm-gauge Urquiza network and Paraguay last year.

“It will allow many of our customers to improve their freight capacity with the convenience of direct arrival at the ports,” says the president of Argentinian Trains’ (TA) freight division (TAC), Mr Daniel Vispo. “It also raises the possibility for new storage plants to be set up along the route, boosting the railway and the region.”

The reopening of the line extends the operational Belgrano network to 1625km. The Belgrano network carries 36% of all freight moved by TAC, and so far in 2023 has carried 1.8 million tonnes, 57% more than the same period in 2019.

“Each branch line that we put back into operation means the opening of more opportunities for thousands of people,” says transport minister, Mr Diego Giuliano. “They improve working conditions for producers who are already working and see the train as a more economical way to move their cargo, and also encourage people who want to start a business and see an obstacle in logistical costs.”

Commuter rail extension

TA has also extended services on the Belgrano South commuter line from González Catán to Lozano, moving closer to the goal of eventually extending operations line to Navarro.

Belgrano South is the only commuter route in Buenos Aires that does not connect with the Buenos Aires metro or other commuter lines. However, Giuliano says construction is progressing on the 4.2km viaduct through the city centre that will run from the current terminus at Dr Antonio Sáenz station to Constitución station, connecting it with the wider transport network. Construction of the viaduct was 55% complete as of August.

“This will, in turn, decongest the Sarmiento line, because many people who today choose it for the connections that it offers will opt for the Belgrano South when we finish the viaduct,” he says.

TA has carried out track repairs, replaced sleepers and cleared vegetation on the 50km section of the line to Navarro.