Panama keen for $5bn China-funded railway to Costa Rica

Panama is considering pressing ahead with a 450km rail line from Panama City to the border with Costa Rica, a scheme that will require an initial investment of around $5bn.

At present, Panama has only one functioning railway, which runs from north to south alongside the Panama Canal.

President Juan Carlos Varela told Reuters of his government’s intentions at the sidelines of the Americas Summit in Lima on Friday.

The plan for Panama’s first international railway moved a step closed in December when an agreement to start a feasibility study was signed by vice chancellor Luis Miguel Hincapie and China’s minister of commerce, Zhong Shan. This also established China’s willingness to fund the project.

Augusto Arosemana, Panama’s trade minister, said at the time that he hoped the study would be completed by June.

A meeting to discuss transport links between President Varela and his Costa Rican counterpart, Luis Guillermo Solis, took place in March.

That gave final approval for the construction of a 260m-long bridge over the Sixaola River on the Caribbean border between the two countries. This bridge is likely to carry the railway line, if work on it does go ahead.   

This project, which has been under discussion for 13 years, had been expected to begin in June 2016 (see further reading).

The two countries are hoping to increase their social and economic integration, and also to increase their mutual appeal to tourists by making it easier for visitors to include both countries in a trip.

Image: Panama’s only functioning railway runs alongside the Panama Canal (Nils Öberg/Creative Commons)

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  1. This is a marvelous plan that should be implemented promptly. Central America, as well as South America, is sadly lacking in rail infrastructure. An effort to solve this severe deficiency, with high-speed rail all the way from the Mexican-US border down to the major cities of Chile, Argentina and Brazil would do much to implement modern civilization in this area, and greatly improve travel, transit, trade and transport!

  2. “….modern civilization….,” Mr. Morgan?

    It is not entirely clear to me what exactly you mean by “modern civilization”, sir, but we in Latin America certainly are not in the stone age or are a backward society as you seem to imply.

    Furthermore, based on this observation as well as the remainder of your comment, your well-meaning but ill informed solution to our backwardness leads me to conclude that you know very little or nothing about Latin America.

    Yes — we in Latin America have numerous sundry problems and challenges to overcome: corruption, violence and crime, mismanagement, poverty, social inequality, inadequate public school systems, etc . But I would like to remind you that, while highly desirable in certain cases, an extensive rail system alone does not make a country or society modern, Mr. Morgan (case in point, the United States, which lacks a rail system comparable to those in Japan, China, France, Spain, etc), nor would it necessarily solve all the problems facing Latin America today.

    Lastly, sir, for starters how do you propose we pay for a high-speed rail system like those in Asia and Europe covering the entire length of Latin American?

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