Chilean State owned railway enterprise EFE comes out once in a while with their (in)famous “Planes Trienales” (Triennial Plans) where they supposedly present important railway projects that are about to be studied or become executed over a period of three years to come, hence the inclusion of the word “triennial”. Anyhow, it was no surprise that they recently presented their “Plan Trienal 2014-2016” which was featured in an article/interview in the Chilean Business Journal ‘Diario Financiero‘.
It’s called – and I translate its title:
“EFE and its new Triennial Plan: “We’ve got a second opportunity and we can’t miss it””.
That sounded promising. Good.
But these Chilean Plans are in the same league as many Master Plans for many cities across the world, namely, that in many cases you need to take them with a (slight) pinch of salt. They’re indicative though, in some way or another, and that’s a fact which cannot be dismissed. This new one includes studies for potential tramway, train and underground projects and they’re going to be studied between 2014, which is this year, and 2016.
What really boggled my mind is that when EFE Chairman Jorge Inostroza was asked, and probably for the gazillionth time, about an re-introduction of railway service between the nation’s capital, Santiago de Chile, and Greater Valparaíso – with its core being the twin cities of Valparaíso/Viña del Mar, he replied that, and I quote him: “Valparaíso-Viña del Mar is still present but we haven’t felt that the demand justifies it”.
My reaction was that it was a very bizarre, let alone, suspicious reply.
For those who don’t know Chile, Greater Santiago has between 6 and 7 million inhabitants (nobody knows for sure the exact number). Take a look at an area located approximately 120 km to the northwest and you’ll find Greater Valparaíso which comprises the cities of Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Concón, Quilpué and Villa Alemana. This whole area houses about 1 million people.
The core of the area, namely, Valparaíso/Viña del Mar/Concón has approximately 700,000 inhabitants.
So it comes as a big surprise to read authorities stating that they “haven’t felt that the demand justifies it” when there’s obviously a burgeoning demand for faster and more comfortable trips. According to Chilean Transit Law, buses are only allowed to travel at max 100 km/h, meaning that a trip between Valparaíso or Viña del Mar and Santiago usually takes 1½ – 2 hours.
Let’s take it again, shall we?
You’ve got somewhere between 6 and 7 million people living in one area and across the towering coastal mountains to the northwest, you’ve got another 1 million people living in another area.
At least one bus departs for Santiago every 10-15 minutes and you can be certain about one thing, they’re almost always overcrowded (!)
Many people live in Greater Valparaíso but study or work in Greater Santiago, or the other way around.
Traffic jams are a common sight on ‘Ruta 68‘ which connects these two areas. And you see almost or entirely overcrowded buses pass all the time.
So, no demand justifies a railway service between these two areas? Nonsense! One doesn’t need to be in Planning to realise that there is a demand. Even a huge one.
But then again, this is Latin America, the promised subregion of buses, buses and more buses.
Greater Santiago – Source: Sectra
Greater Valparaíso – Source: Sectra
Will we ever see this between Valparaíso and Santiago de Chile?