In less than five years, San José residents could be riding an express-electric train to Heredia, the provincial capital north of San José – and vice-versa, in just 22 minutes flat thanks to a Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) project whose characteristics were disclosed Tuesday.
The project, dubbed TREM, for Electric Metropolitan Train, will transport approximately 47 million passengers over a one-year-period and carry an estimated price tag of $345 million.
“We are finally talking about the modernization of public transport in Costa Rica,” said Karla González, minister of the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT). The electric train initiative is distinct from the project to rehabilitate the existing San José-Heredia railway for diesel-fuelled trains recently purchased from Spain, which could be up and running in a few weeks (TT, March 20). It will, however, eventually use the same right-of-way.
MOPT estimates the first route from Heredia to the Atlantic Station, located in the center of San José, will be up and running by 2013. The following year, MOPT expects to finish a second stretch fromAtlantic Station to the eastern San José neighborhood of San Pedro, and a third from the Atlantic Station to Sabana Sur that same year. The three segments include up to 20 stops. The TREM will stop for a maximum of 30 seconds in each station.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is providing $100 million for the future electric project, González said. Accordingly, the company responsible for the concession will have to invest around $245 million in private funds over a period of 35 years.
“The donation from IDB will make this project more attractive to those companies interested in bidding for this project,” González said on Tuesday.
Over the last six months, Engevix, a Brazilian company, did a feasibility study that looked at passenger demand for the Heredia-San José and San José-Heredia routes, the electric system and environmental viability, among other factors.
The first phase of the study also concluded that the country will save around $88.7 million a year in time, energy, environmental contamination and other costs during the life of the concession. The study also proposed a train fare of ¢425 ($0.75) for the San José-Heredia route.
The bidding process will take place during the second half of 2009, and MOPT hopes to award the project during the first six months of 2010.
This Friday at 10 a.m. at least six interested companies, hailing from countries including Canada, China and Czech Republic will attend the first informational meeting regarding the concession at the Hotel Crown Coribicí, located in La Sabana.
–Vanessa I. Garnica