Published Tuesday, August 11, 2020
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Diesel-powered trains purchased
from a China company delayed
President Carlos Alvarado's government has been announcing on its social networks the advantages that the country would obtain from the purchase of the first electric train in Costa Rica. However, the Institute of Railways, announced the arrival of four of the eight diesel-powered trains, to be manufactured by a Chinese company.
The first four diesel-powered trains were scheduled for arriving in April, however, according to the government, the global emergency with the pandemic has forced delivery dates to be adjusted.
In November, the receipt of four diesel-powered trains is scheduled. In January 2021, the arrival of four more diesel-powered trains purchased is scheduled from the Chinese company CRRC Quingdao Sifang Co costing approximately $32,659,122.
CRRC Sifang Co., a wholly-owned subsidiary of China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Industry Corporation (CRRC), is located in Qingdao, a coastal city in China.
The institute expects to have all 8 diesel trains running after April 2021.
As part of the preliminary works for the use of the trains, and “improvements have been made in more than 10 km of railroad, performing preventive and corrective maintenance,” said Elizabeth Briceño, president of the institute. “In addition, improvement works have been carried out on various bridges."
Since December 2018, the government announced the purchase of 8 diesel trains from the Chinese company. At that time, the First lady Claudia Dobles stated, "We are committed to modernizing the train service to ensure sustainable, efficient and quality mobility for the population. Our medium-term project is the electric train, and, in the short term, the renovation of the current train equipment is fundamental."
According to the institute, each one of the eight trains has an engine and passenger cars for a total length of 38 meters, a capacity of 372 passengers, air conditioning, preferential seats and space for two wheelchairs per carriage, high technology radio system and a display system with LED screens. They are made from stainless steel and expected to last for up to 30 years. The engines are less polluting than the current ones.
The institute stated that, in addition to the purchase of the trains, specialized machinery and a stock of spare parts were purchased for the workshops that will maintain the new trains.
The equipment included lathes, bearing pits, precision special forklift equipment, train washing machine, traveling crane gantry, milling machine, hydraulic jacks, gas measurement equipment, and a gas test bench.
Right now, the institute has 11 Apollo trains and 4 locomotives with 24 passenger cars to provide transportation between San José and the provinces of Heredia, Cartago and Alajuela.
In May 2020, the government presented to Congress, for its approval or rejection, a $550 million loan contract with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, CABEI, to finance the construction of the infrastructure for the first electric train in the country.
The loan is for a 25-year term, with no commitment fee, a 5-years grace, and a counterpart for $1 billion of foreign investment as it is a concession project.
The concession is a legal figure that allows the government to contract private companies to develop infrastructure, health, and education projects, among others.
The train has been budgeted at more than $1.5 billion. Part of this budget is the $550 million loan that is pending approval by the deputies. However, in a statement provided by the bank in November, "the project's investment in infrastructure and equipment represents $1.3 billion."
The loan, if approved, will be used to build the required infrastructure of the train terminal.
The loan has an indicative annual interest rate of 4.95 percent. Due to the positive impacts of this operation, the bank is making significant efforts with other sources of cooperation to maximize these conditions with the expectation of extending the term to up to 40 years and lowering the annual interest rate to 1.55%, said CABEI in its statement.
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