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Costa Rica testing new trains, preparing for April debut

February 2, 2021

Residents of the Greater Metropolitan Area may have noticed a new addition to Costa Rica’s public-transportation sector this week.

The Costa Rican Railway Institute (INCOFER) is testing the eight self-propelled train carriages that it received in recent weeks. If all goes as planned, the diesel-powered trains will begin service in April.

“Monday’s tests were completed successfully,” said President Carlos Alvarado.

Check out a video of Tuesday’s tests below:

“With the arrival of these eight new trains, the process of railway modernization begins,” said Elizabeth Briceño, President of the Costa Rican Railway Institute (INCOFER). “The current passenger operation will improve in quality, as well as the user experience, increasing the capacity of our services.”

Each of the trains has a length of 38 m and a capacity for 372 passengers, double the capacity of the current railroad cars. On-board amenities include air conditioning, preferential seating for people with mobility issues, and wheelchair spaces.

The trains, purchased from the Chinese company CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co. f0r $32.7 million, are powered by on-board diesel engines.

The company says the equipment features “low noise, low energy consumption, less pollution” and a lifespan of 30 years.

Costa Rica refocuses on its railroad

While these new trains are diesel, Costa Rica eventually plans to create an electric passenger train network as an integral piece of its decarbonization plan.

In 2020, the government presented its plans for the 84 km of railroad that would feature 46 stations across the heavily populated Greater Metropolitan Area. Once completed, the urban electric train would transport 200,000 people each day, linking the cities of Cartago, San José, Heredia and Alajuela.

“It will be the largest concession project in the country and will transform our nation in mobility, health and competitiveness,” President Alvarado said at the time.

A robust railroad evokes memories of Costa Rica’s past, when trains played an important role in the country’s development.

In 2019, the government began exploring the feasibility of the Limón Electric Freight Train Project, or TELCA, which would modernize stretches of rail between Limón and Río Frío, and between Limón and Valle de la Estrella, as well as explore the viability of a new stretch between Río Frío and Bajos de Chilamate.

INCOFER is also discussing rebuilding its rail network from the San José area to Puntarenas on the Pacific coast. That infrastructure has been in a state of disrepair after budget cuts and damage caused by the construction of Route 27.

“We are sure that this will contribute to the economic recovery of the area and will generate employment, and that it is also another step to return return to the rail legacy of our grandparents in Costa Rica,” Briceño said.

 

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