COLOMBIA’s National Infrastructure Agency (ANI) has awarded the San Felipe Férreo Consortium a Pesos 71.7bn ($US 18.1m) 12-month contract to upgrade and maintain the 522km La Dorada - Chiriguaná line for freight operations.

The line forms a strategic corridor between the interior of the country and the Caribbean coast, running via the Caldas, Antioquia, Santander, Norte de Santander and Cesar regions. The project will improve logistical efficiency, enabling a 26% reduction in transport costs.

The San Felipe Férreo Consortium, formed by Castro Tcherassi, Infraestructura Comsa Colombia and Comsa Colombia, was the successful bidder in a tender that attracted seven other consortia.

The winning consortium will also carry out the maintenance of vulnerable sections of the line, provide emergency assistance during operation, provide security services, and operate and maintain the rolling stock, among other activities.

The La Dorada - Chiriguaná line carried 89,336 tonnes of freight in 2022, and has already carried more than 104,000 tonnes so far in 2023, including paper and ceramics, steel billets, wire rod and bar, fertiliser, coal and coffee.

Work to be undertaken includes the repair and maintenance of freight facilities depots, the repair of point work, the installation of new signalling and the development of social and environmental programmes.

While the contract is in force, the government and ANI will prepare to tender a 10-year public-private partnership (PPP) contract to operate and maintain the line, which will include an estimated Peso 2.5bn investment.

The winner of the PPP, which will be awarded in the second half of 2024, is expected to build an administrative building, a freight terminal in La Dorada and two maintenance workshops for infrastructure and rolling stock maintenance, and install a new traffic control system to improve operational safety and performance.