top of page
  • Writer's pictureOsmo Digital

The Return of Trains in Latin America

By Osmo Digital Editorial Team.


Fast train

The history of Latin America is closely linked to its railways. Since the arrival of the first train in Cuba in 1837, these steel giants have been engines of change, connecting people, cultures, and economies. Today, after a period of decline, we are witnessing an exciting railway renaissance, promising to transform the transport and tourism landscape in the region.


"The railways, which once wove a tapestry of dreams across our land, faded like shadows at dawn, leaving behind an echo of memories and unfulfilled promises." - Gabriela Mistral, Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner in Literature.

The arrival of the railroad was a significant transformation in Latin America, overcoming barriers of time and distance. The first train in Latin America made its debut in Cuba in 1837, marking the beginning of an era that would transform the continent. In Mexico, Chile and Argentina, the arrival of trains not only meant a technological advance but also a boost for the economy and national unification. These countries embarked on ambitious railway projects, weaving networks that crossed vast and diverse geographies.


Meanwhile, Europe developed an extensive high-speed rail network, offering fast, frequent and affordable travel. This development contrasts sharply with the situation in Latin America, where vast distances, costs, and preference for the automobile and airplane limited railway development. During the 20th century, several countries, such as Argentina and Brazil, nationalized their railway networks; this decision was partly a response to economic problems and competition from automobile traffic. State management tried to harmonize and reduce inefficiencies, but faced challenges due to the heterogeneity of railway routes and services. The lack of investment and modernization, together with problems of corruption and conflicts of interest, led to a progressive abandonment of these networks. In countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala, rail service was completely suspended in the 1990s and early 2000s due to various factors, including natural disasters and government conflicts. Experts and political leaders have reflected on this decline, highlighting how a lack of long-term vision and political instability contributed to this phenomenon.


Despite the decline, some trains never stopped operating, keeping railway culture alive in the region. The Chepe train in Mexico, along with intercity services in countries such as Peru, Argentina, and Brazil, are a testament to the resistance and love for trains in Latin America.


The Renaissance of Trains in Latin America

Today, Latin America is experiencing a railway spring, a period marked by the flourishing of multiple ambitious projects. These initiatives promise not only to connect cities and towns within countries, but also to weave a network of routes that will unite the entire region, promoting economic and tourism development.


Mexico

In Mexico the Mayan Train is a key work that promises the tourist and commercial development of the south of the country, traveling approximately 1,500 km at a maximum speed of 160 km/h, this $6,000 million dollar work promises to be an attraction both for tourists and locals, with impressive views of the Riviera Maya and connecting key tourist destinations such as Cancun, Tulum and Palenque. Its operations began in December 2023 and it is expected that the complete works of this project will be completed in 2024, offering not only passenger transportation but also cargo transportation at its 16 stations.


Another of the country's recent developments is the Isthmus Train that connects the city of Coatzacoalcos on the Gulf of Mexico with Salina Cruz on the Pacific with passenger and cargo transportation. This project seeks to transform the logistics of trade between the oceans through its 8 stations and more than 300 km.


Finally, another of the recent projects in Mexico is the Insurgente Train that connects the country's capital with the city of Toluca, with its 55 km and 5 intermediate stations, it joins the country's intercity train network along with the existing in the cities of Guadalajara and Monterrey.


By 2050, Mexico plans to reactivate 11 railway lines, with the aim of improving national connectivity and the efficiency of cargo and passenger transportation.


Colombia

Colombia is working on the revitalization of its railway network, especially the routes that connect the interior with ports in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The aim is to improve efficiency in cargo transportation, key to the country's economy. In addition to this, there are projects such as the Commuter Train that plans to connect Bogotá with its neighboring cities, significantly improving urban and suburban mobility. With an investment of several billion dollars, its completion is scheduled for the end of the decade.


Likewise, one of the most significant projects on the horizon for the country is the long-awaited Bogotá Metro, which will relieve congestion in the Colombian capital and improve the quality of life of its inhabitants.


Central America

Central America has been gaining prominence and international relevance in recent years, so this region is not left behind in railway projects. Currently, the region is analyzing the revitalization of existing railway networks and the introduction of new train services for passengers and cargo. There are proposals to develop a railway network that connects several Central American countries, although still in the initial stages, lines that would link key points such as Panama City with Costa Rica, thus improving regional integration and facilitating trade.


Argentina

Argentina is focused on modernizing its railway network, with projects such as the Belgrano Cargas, which is essential for the transportation of goods. This project seeks to improve efficiency and reduce transportation costs, this includes the renewal of tracks, the purchase of new rolling stock and the improvement of associated infrastructure.


Additionally, there are ambitious projects such as the Buenos Aires - Córdoba Bullet Train, this project aims to connect Buenos Aires with Córdoba through a high-speed train, significantly reducing travel times. Although its development has been slow, it remains a key objective in the modernization of Argentine transportation.


Chile

Chile is another of the countries that leads in projects and development of railways in Latin America, betting on this means of transportation for economic growth and connectivity in this large country, through the State Railway Company (EFE). Currently, the country has various passenger train services that mainly include medium and long distance routes, such as the Terrasur service that connects Santiago with Chillán, and commuter trains in metropolitan areas such as the Metrotren Nos and Rancagua. The renovation and improvement projects of its national railway network contemplate the modernization of existing lines and the expansion of more efficient and sustainable railway services. These efforts are part of a broader plan to improve the quality of public transportation and reduce dependence on road transportation.


One of the projects currently under development and one of the most emblematic in the country is the Santiago-Valparaíso High Speed Train, which aims to connect Santiago, the capital of Chile, with the coastal city of Valparaíso, at a distance of approximately 100 km. km. High-speed rail promises to significantly reduce travel times between these two major cities, going from more than an hour by car to around 30 minutes by train. A multimillion-dollar investment is estimated for this project, which promises to be a milestone in the modernization of Chilean transportation. In addition to the speed, which is expected to exceed 200 km/h, the train will offer spectacular views of Chile's diverse geography, including mountains and vineyards.


Ecuador

This Andean country is not far behind in the race to resume passenger rail transport in the region. Ecuador's railway network has approximately 965.6 km of railway line, of which only 118.9 km are operational, which is why the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works is investing in the renewal and expansion of its railway network. This includes both the improvement of existing lines and the introduction of new services, focused on both passenger and tourist transportation.

It is planned to reactivate six railway sections for tourist purposes, these include Alausí-Sibambe (the Devil's Nose train), Quito-Boliche, Ibarra-Salinas, Riobamba-Urbina, Tambo-Coyoctor and Durán-Bucay. These sections have been identified as the most touristic and it is expected that their rehabilitation will benefit both local communities and tourists.


Peru

In Peru, several significant railway projects are being developed that aim to improve connectivity and transportation throughout the country. One of the most significant is the Tacna–Tumbes Railway Corridor (Grau Train) that will travel 2,446 km, connecting the north and south of the country. It is designed to meet an average demand of 30.3 million passengers per year.


Another of the country's emblematic projects is the Lima–Ica Railway. This tram will cover more than 280 km, crossing the provinces of Ica, Pisco, Chincha, Cañete and Lima. The project is in the pre-investment study stage and is expected to serve 11 million passengers annually.


These trains make up a plan of 7 railway routes that seek to connect the population and the country's economy, improving competitiveness and promoting tourism.


Brazil

Brazil is making significant investments and improvements in its railway infrastructure. One of the most notable passenger rail projects is the High Speed Train between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, designed to connect the two main metropolitan areas of Brazil with a total line length of approximately 518 km_22200000-0000-0000-0000 -000000000222_. The maximum speed of the train is estimated at 350 km/h, which will significantly reduce travel time between these two cities. In addition to connecting São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the TAV will also link Campinas, a major city in the state of São Paulo, and connect Brazil's two main international airports: Guarulhos (in São Paulo) and Tom Jobim (in Rio de Janeiro ), in addition to Viracopos (in Campinas)​.

Six projects are underway in the country, with an investment of approximately R$ 63 billion and a total extension of 20 thousand km, and about 49 projects have been presented to the Ministry of Infrastructure, with a projected investment of R$ 165 thousand. million for the implementation of 12.9 thousand km of new train tracks.


 

The renaissance of trains in Latin America is not just a matter of transportation; It is a narrative of progress, integration, and reinvention. Although the challenges are many, the potential to revolutionize transportation in the region is enormous. With smart investments and appropriate policies, trains could once again be the engine of progress in Latin America.




"Mayan Train and Isthmus of Tehuantepec Train: Two major railway projects in Mexico." Available on Tren Maya and Tren del Istmo.RPP Noticias.

"Peru has 13 railway projects for more than US$ 26,000 million." Available at RPP Noticias.

Ministry of Transportation and Public Works (MTOP), Ecuador. "Railway Projects in Ecuador." Available at MTOP.

El Diario - Bolivia. "Bioceanic Railway Corridor will receive an investment of more than Bs 3,000 million." Available at El Diario - Bolivia.

The Country. "Bolivia sets 2025 to connect the bioceanic railway network." Available at El País.

Economy. "Government resumes the bioceanic train and tenders a study for two projects." Available at Economy.

Mafex Magazine. "Bolivia reactivates its railway system." Available at Mafex Magazine.

ANTT - National Land Transport Agency. "New Railway Projects." Available at ANTT.

Ministry of Transport, Brazil. "Federal Government authorizes construction and operation of new railways for Pro Trilhos." Available at Ministério dos Transportes.

BNamericas. "Brazil's railway projects grow under the new regulatory model." Available at BNamericas.

Railway Development in Central America: Projects and Projections." Non-specific source, general information on railway projects in the region

MASSA. "Quais são os Ferrovias Projetos no Brasil em andamento?" Available at MASSA.

G1. "ANTT authorizes the TAV Brasil company to build and explore high-speed trains between SP and RJ." Available at G1.

BNamericas. "TAV Brasil's plans for the nearly US$10bn Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo train." Available at BNamericas.

Wikipedia. "Rio-São Paulo High Speed Train." Available at Wikipedia.


0 views0 comments
bottom of page