CONSTRUCTION of the first metro line in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is 99% complete, with trial passenger services due to begin in December ahead of the line opening in 2022.

Mr Rodrigo Torres has been appointed general manager of Quito Metro Metropolitan Public Company (EPMMQ) to oversee the transition from construction and testing to operation of the line.

The 22.5km line from Quitumbe to El Labrador has 15 stations, including five intermodal interchanges, with an average commercial speed of 37km/h and an end-to-end journey time of 34 minutes.

The Phase 1 contract, which covers construction of El Labrador and La Magdalena stations, was awarded to Acciona, Spain, in 2012. The $US 1.54bn Phase 2 contract was awarded in 2015 to a consortium of Acciona and Odebrecht, Brazil, and encompasses the construction of tunnels, 13 stations, electrical and mechanical systems, and depot and stabling facilities.

Construction was officially launched in January 2016 and was originally due to be completed in 2019. Odebrecht pulled out of the of the consortium in April 2017 amid financial difficulties with Acciona becoming sole shareholder in the venture.  

The $US 2bn project has been funded by the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Andean Development Corporation, CAF, the World Bank in cooperation with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Quito Metropolitan Government and the Ecuadorian government.

CAF is supplying 18 six-car trains for the project in a contract worth around $US 183m. Each train will be formed of four motor cars and two trailers and is capable of accommodating up to 1500 passengers.

The line runs underground for 19.49km, with tunnelling completed using three 9.3m-high Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM). This was undertaken in the dense urban centre of Quito, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is regulated by strict environmental and archaeological requirements.

Archaeological and geo-radar studies were conducted to determine areas requiring additional protection and research. Excavation plans included the mapping, individual coding, removal, storage and, finally, re-installation of 107,695 paving stones covering the square.

Siemens was commissioned to electrify the line at 1.5kV dc. The contract included about 46km of rigid catenary, 6km of flexible catenary, 11 traction power supply stations, 29 auxiliary power supply stations, and the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (Scada) system for monitoring and controlling the traction power supply. The line will be powered using sustainable hydroelectric power.

The line is expected to transport more than 350,000 passengers a day when completed.

The first test train operated from the depot in the Quitumbe sector to El Labrador station in October 2020. The first two stations, Iñaquito and Jipijapa, were handed over to Quito Metro Metropolitan Public Company (EPMMQ) on May 3. At the start of May, testing had been completed on 11 of the 18 trains.

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