Work on the $US 1.3bn project to introduce a commuter rail service between Santiago and Melipilla will start in June, BN Americas reports, while construction of the $US 650m Santiago - Batuco line and the $US 220m Biobío rail bridge in Concepción will begin next year.

EFE is also planning to modernise the Santiago - Chillan inter-city service at a cost of $US 115m. This includes constructing a rolling stock maintenance centre - a tender for engineering studies was launched on April 20. Technical bids will be opened on July 13 followed by the economic bids on July 31, with the contracts expected to be awarded in August.

EFE plans to partially finance the works through a $US 130m bond issue which is expected to take place soon.

Other projects include the renovation of the Talca - Constitución line, expanding Valparaíso’s commuter rail service to Quillota and La Calera, rolling stock purchases for the Santiago - Nos - Rancagua commuter line and upgrading the freight link to San Antonio (see below).

Long-term plan

The 2020-22 plan is part of a long-term $US 5.57bn investment plan intended to raise the annual number of passengers carried from around 50 million at present to 174 million in 2027, and annual freight tonnage from 11.5 million to 21 million over the same period.

EFE says 42% of the planned investment would be for suburban services over existing lines from Santiago to the south, southwest and northwest, serving new housing developments.

The bulk of the money will finance the new commuter rail service from Santiago Alameda to Malloco and Melipilla. The project was tendered in 2002 but received no valid bids, largely due a difference in opinion between EFE and Santiago Metro. The new project will be implemented solely by EFE and, with annual ridership estimated at between 30 and 50 million passengers, would be EFE's most heavily used service.

Around 20% of the investment would be for suburban services serving the cities of Valparaíso and Concepción.


One of the country's main general freight ports is located in Valparaíso, while Concepción’s ports of Talcahuano and Lirquén handle large volumes of forestry products. Rail freight through the port of Valparaíso is already minimal and there is little prospect of a revival without massive investment in a new rail corridor, which has been proposed by private sector consortia.

However, EFE's plan includes projects aimed at increasing suburban passenger flows in the Concepción area while minimising clashes with freight services. Critical to this is the construction of a new bridge across the Biobio River to replace the existing 130-year-old single track bridge.

Around 20% of the planned investment is aimed at facilitating freight movement by rail, especially between Santiago and a new megaport to be built at San Antonio, on the coast to the west of Santiago. In a first stage, the track layout would be improved at the port end, a new freight terminal designed at the city end, and passing loops lengthened along the single-track line. During the second stage, the terminal would be built and the whole line upgraded to double track, including through tunnels.

Additional reporting by Ian Thomson Newman in Santiago.