FCALP, which connects the Chilean port of Arica with Bolivia, is a challenging railway having more than 40km of 6% gradients, curves of less than 100m radius, stretches with 27.5kg/m rail and a maximum altitude above sea level of over 4250m.
The Chilean government, budgeted $US 32m to rehabilitate the railway, including the removal of soil contaminated by mineral residues. Chilean State Railways (EFE) authorised Arica Port Company (EPA) to supervise the rehabilitation, which has been carried out by Comsa, Spain, and invite tenders for its operation.
Operation will resume in August using three locomotives hired by Comsa from Ferronor to haul trains of contaminated soil. Reopening of the line will also allow Bolivia's Andean Railway (FCA) to run over FCALP tracks down to the port of Arica. FCA, controlled by London-based but Chilean managed Antofagasta PLC, joins FCALP at the frontier, between Visviri and Charaña.
In the short term, the traffic potential is considered to be about 250,000 tonnes annually, mainly downhill from Bolivia. This would give the FCALP some 14% of the market between Bolivia and Arica. FCALP has hardly ever carried more than 300,000 tonnes in a single year. Once all lightweight rail has been replaced, more powerful locomotives will be able to be used, lowering operating costs and raising line capacity. EPA then intends to invite tenders to operate the railway.