QCOSTARICA — The commuter train service in Costa Rica does not work. It has never worked. Not that it couldn’t. The national railway, the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocariles (INCOFER) has failed to provide a reliable commuter train service in Costa Rica, despite there being a demand for it.
Right now, the commuter train runs (when it does run) only during weekday morning and afternoon peak periods and at times and routes that are not suitable for many people to view it as an alternative to the increasing traffic congestion in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM).
The failure is attributed to various causes, such as no coordination between buses and commuter trains, and a disconnect between the two lines running west and west-northwest (Pavas and Heredia/Alajuela) and east (to Cartago). To travel from one train station to the other, the Atlantico and Pacifico, users must resort to taking a bus or taxi, or walking the more than 20 blocks between stations.
The previous government of Carlos Alvarado (2018-2022) may have identified the problems present but viewed them as impossible to resolve.
The current government of Rodrigo Chaves dsicarded the Alvarado plan last year, but is now enthusiastically pushing for the electric train, stating that they have secured the necessary funding of US$250 million (in addition to the US$550 million loan from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration) to finance the development of the “Tren Rápido de Pasajeros” (Fast Passenger Train).
On Friday, the Minister of the Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transports (MOPT) – public works and transportation minister, Luis Amador, announced that the country obtained pre-approval for the US$250 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB).
The plan is to, by the first half of 2024, complete the demand studies, railway designs and costs, to be able to put out the public works to tender.
According to Amador, this proposal would meet a demand of 100,000 passengers by train and about 600,000 by bus.
Amador also announced that next year, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) will collaborate on the implementation of the electric bus project, which is designed to provide 13 units as a pilot plan for zero-emission mobility.
“This plan will operate in two diametrals crossing the center of San José, starting from the University of Costa Rica (UCR), Los Yoses, Avenida Segunda, Paseo Colón, Sabana, Nunciatura in Pavas, to return again to the San Pedro sector,” explained Amador.