China Railway pays $600m for another stretch of Chile’s main highway

Ruta 5 is part of the Pan-American Highway. It stretches from Peru to southern Chile. This picture shows it passing through Santiago, where it is known as Autopista Central (GIO: IAB/CC BY-SA 2.0)
China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) has increased its ownership of Chile’s main highway by paying $600m for the right to toll a 169km stretch of Route 5 between Chillán in the centre of the country and the southern city of Collipulli.

It adds to a 195km stretch of Route 5 that CRCC acquired in an historic public-private partnership deal in 2021.

Business website BNAmericas reports that CRCC will upgrade and maintain Route 5 in exchange for the right to collect tolls.

It will build a four-lane access road for Collipulli, widen 18km of the existing route, replace 14 bridges, and repair another 48.

The transaction brings the length of Chilean highway under Chinese ownership to 364km.

In March 2021, CRRC paid $851m for the concession to operate and upgrade a 195km stretch of Route 5 from Chillán to Talca, a city about 255km south of Santiago.

At the time, this scheme was described as Chile’s largest infrastructure project and the first public-private partnership scheme awarded to a Chinese company (see further reading).

Work on that stretch included building a 56km bypass and expanding a 30km section from two lanes to three. As of December, construction work had not started, but detailed engineering was on course.

The latest deal is the latest in a number of Chinese contract wins in Chile. In March 2021, China Road and Bridge Corporation and Spain’s Puentes y Calzadas won a $300m public–private contract to build three hospitals in the Maule region between Chillán and Santiago.

In the same year, China Railway 16th Bureau Group was awarded a $2.5bn contract to build Santiago metro line 7.

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