The concession of an efficient and modern intercity electric train that connects to the four provinces of the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), promoted by Costa Rica’s First Lady, Claudia Dobles, could be derailed because of dilly-dallying by legislators.

“The train is a transformative project that will change the lives of thousands of people in Costa Rica,” said Elizabeth Briceño, president of Incofer. Image from La Republlica

Some 40 legislators who together form a majority are skeptical concerning the US$1.2 billion cost that would include a US$550 million loan from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), in addition to a very substantial contribution from State coffers.

It will be up to the legislators of the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), Partido Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC), Nueva República and Restauración Nacional, who would define with their votes the success or failure of the main urban mobility project.

They question the proposed by the Government of Carlos Alvarado given the fact that the country is going through fiscal problems and that government spending has not been contained according to the legislators’ criteria.

Carmen Chan, head of the Nueva República, described the project as “illusory,” while Gustavo Viales, of the PLN, questioned the Government’s commitment to contain the expense and accused it of continuing to waste, La República reports in Spanish.

The president’s goal is to leave the project under concession in 2022 when his mandate ends; to that end, in the first quarter of 2020, it will present a bill that structures the loan, confirmed Elizabeth Briceño, executive president of the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles (Incofer) – the Costa Rican Railway.

The electric train is to run 73 kilometers, through 15 cantons and four provinces. It would be bidirectional, at ground level, with some overpasses. The idea is that it runs every five minutes and does not require expropriations, a major project killer in public works in Costa Rica.

An example is the current expansion project of the Ruta 32 (Guapiles to Limon), which after two years of the start of the project, it is less than 20% complete.

The electric train project will be concessioned and so far, companies from ten countries have shown interest. However, the project is in doubt because opposition deputies would not be willing to approve the loan to boost it.

In principle, it would allow the hiring of 1,000 temporary employees for construction and generate about 461 permanent jobs once completed.

An ambitious plan

The intercity electric train planned by the Government would be the center of a modern and orderly public transport.

“The (electric) train is a transformative project that will change the lives of thousands of people in Costa Rica, has benefits in times of transfers, reduced costs to people and the country, improvements in health and air quality; as well as reducing the country’s carbon emissions,” says President Alvarado.

Dante Mossi, CEO of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, “It is a project that marks the beginning of the rail plans to the region and that, in addition, is friendly to the environment as it is an electric train in a country where most of the electric power is renewable, and that will serve as a model for the others Similar projects in the region.”

Doubtful

Gustavo Vials, legislator of the PLN says, “It seems to us that the Executive Power must begin a clear, consistent and firm signal of containment of public spending.”

For her part, María Inés Solís, of the PUSC, “We still have to know what the plan is, what is the small letter of the loan that the Government is asking the Central American Bank for Economic Integration for the electric train, so I think it is a bit premature to talk about the issue.”

“The electric train is an expensive project that indebts the country even more and would only mitigate the issue of congestion (in the GAM) for a while,” is the sentiment of Eduardo Cruickshank, head of the Restauración Nacional.