(QCOSTARICA) On Wednesday many Alajuelenses (residents of Alajuela) were surprised to hear the blowing whistle of the commuter train that will soon be part of their daily lives.
The railway – Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles (Incofer) – yesterday conducted a test from downtown Heredia to Rio Segundo de Alajuela (east of the San Jose international the airport), 7.4 kilometres of track.
Once fully complete (the Incofer is continuing work on a 600 metre section of track in San Joaquin de Flores) the commuter train will run regular service between Rio Segundo to the Basilica de Los Angeles in Cartago, passing through Heredia and San Jose. The 40 kilometre trip will last between 90 and 100 minutes.
Guillermo Santana, head of the Incofer, said the Alajuela track should be operational by September, depending on the regulatory authority, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos (Aresep), setting the rate.
“Once the rate is set, the train will start to run. We have complied with all the requests made by the Aresep,” said Santana.
According to Santana, initially the train will run every 50 minutes between Rio Segundo and downtown Heredia, with stops in San Joaquin de Flores and San Francisco de Heredia. Santana added that with a good nightly maintenance program, it will allow the railway to put into service all its units and decrease the fequency to 30 minutes.
The goal, the official said, is to have more than 30 trains in operation (throughout the system), but not diesel. “They have to be electric because we want to help reduce the carbon footprint in the country,” said Santana.
For Alajuela, the plan, according to the Incofer, is to continue the train to the San Rafael de Alajuela hospital and even to downtown Alajuela. For this, the Incofer is looking for financial support from the municipality of Alajuela. For his part, Roberto Thompson, mayor of Alajuela, said the municipality is committed to supporting this work with an investment of over ¢200 million colones.
The commuter train starting running in October 2005, between San Pedro and Pavas, with a connection in downtown San Jose. Since, the Pavas line was extended to reach San Antonio de Belén and the San Jose – Heredia and San Jose – Cartago service was added.
The commuter train runs mornings and afternoon on weekedays and on special occasions, like service to the national stadium in La Sabana.