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Rail team awarded Colombia contract

By SERGIO HELD | China Daily | Updated: 2019-12-30 09:39
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Chinese infrastructure companies are enhancing their presence in Colombia despite its difficult social and economic conditions.

Early last week, a Chinese consortium emerged as the sole bidder and winner of a contract on Dec 23 to build a regional rapid transit system. Known as Regiotram of the West, the system will connect Bogota with four outlying cities.

"The project will not only become a model of a suburban train, the first commuter train of the country, it will become a reference for cities like Cali, Barranquilla and Medellin to present their own projects," said Juan Camilo Ostos, vice minister of transport.

"Regiotram is an example of how things can be done. It has been a process of much technical thoroughness and it will be a model for other cities interested in commuter trains," he said. The plan is for this regional rapid transit to be completed by 2024 and be capable of moving about 40 million passengers per year.

The China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, or CCECC, a subsidiary of China Railway Construction Corporation, was the sole bidder for the project. The trains will run completely on electricity across 39.6 kilometers and 17 stations spread through four towns and Bogota.

"Regiotram of the West is the most important mobility project of the country of the past few years," Jorge Rey, governor of Cundinamarca said at a news conference earlier.

The timing is somewhat complicated for the launch of a new project. Colombia has been undergoing a period of civil unrest and protests since Nov 21, affecting the retail sector and investments in the Latin American country.

"The fact that only one bidder has submitted a proposal is a product of the situation that the country is going through," said Ostos.

"China has extensive infrastructure experience. In projects of these characteristics, they have a competitive advantage over other market players, since they have the entire financing chain," he said.

He said the contractor will have to assume the risks of a currency that fluctuated a lot during the protests.

Jing Liu, CCECC's agent in Colombia and the company's representative in the bidding process, declined to comment on the bid or the bidding process before the contract is signed on Jan 8.

Under the project, CCECC will build the railway and system of stations and related infrastructure at a cost of $543 million. It will cost Colombia another $343 million for CCECC to operate the system for 22 years.

" (The Chinese) have been successful in infrastructure projects all around the world. They have done them in India, the Middle East, Europe, here in Latin America, everywhere," said Juvenal Infante, director of the Centre of Studies of Asia-Pacific and director of an educational travel program to China at Sergio Arboleda University in Bogota.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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