The governments of Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru met in the Peruvian capital Lima Friday (15 June) to agree on how to promote the construction of a railway across the South American continent.
A framework for a task force was agreed, and a feasibility study into the mega project, which has formerly been promoted by China, will now be undertaken.
German and Swiss diplomats, and international development banks, also attended.
The "bi-oceanic railway" would link the Pacific port of Ilo in Peru to Sao Paulo on Brazil’s Atlantic coast.
The idea would be to speed up cross-continental freight and integrate the economies of the four countries.
Depending on the eventual route, the line could be between 3,800km and 5,300km in length, and cost estimates have ranged widely, from $10bn to $60bn.
At the Lima meeting, Peruvian officials presented a study arguing there is enough cargo traffic between the countries to make the project viable, reports TeleSUR, a Venezuelan-based news organisation.
"As a state, we are seriously committed with the Bi-oceanic Railway Corridor," said Peru’s minister of transport and communications, Edmer Trujillo. "We are committed to working together to go forward and complete this very important project, which will integrate us and lead to our countries’ development."
Bolivia’s public works minister Milton Claros told Bolivian media they had agreed to contract an "integral feasibility study" on the conditions in the four countries, said TeleSUR.
European states are interested in getting involved, where China was before. The ambassadors of Switzerland and Germany, as well as delegates from the European Union, attended the Lima meeting.
This follows a visit to Bolivia last March by a German trade mission to discuss the project. Then, Germany’s transport minister hailed the scheme as "the megaproject of the century".
Representatives from the Inter American Development Bank and the Latin American Development Bank were also at the Lima meeting, and reiterated their support for the project, said TeleSUR, adding that the Russian Railways Society also expressed interest in taking part.
The ambitious idea was previously promoted by China, whose president Xi Jinping met with his Peruvian and Brazilian counterparts throughout 2014 to pledge cooperation.
However, interest seemed to fade after the Chinese side estimated such a railway would cost $60bn in 2016.
Image: For illustration purposes only, how the route could cross through the four countries to link Sao Paulo in Brazil to the port at Ilo in Peru (GCR/Google Maps)
This is an essential addition to the South American transport system, and should be constructed as quickly as possible. The map shows a virtual straight line; however, the actual route should connect through major cities enroute, such as Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and La Paz in Bolivia. It is assumed the route would provide passenger service also, so it should be constructed to high speed standards. Financing and construction consulting should be sought from China and the other nations mentioned.
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