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US signals interest in $20bn Honduran rail corridor – if China’s not involved

The Honduran press service’s image of a meeting with US delegates held in February
The Honduran commission planning a railway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans presented its proposals to country delegations this week, local media report.

The US, Japan, South Korea, Spain, China, Qatar and Italy sent delegations to hear plans set out by the Comisión Nacional del Ferrocarril Interoceánico (Confi).

Last year, the government of Honduras switched its allegiance from Taiwan to China, and informed Beijing that it was looking for investors in the corridor.

Newspaper El Heraldo reports that the US delegation signalled its interest through a formal note to invest in the project along with other countries, but not together with China.

Confi is now drawing up its internal regulations, after which it will present its proposals to Honduras’ parliament.

It will then begin work on putting in place the planning, regulations, financing, designs and construction.

The plan is to build the 440km project in two phases over a period of 20 years, for a cost in the region of $20bn.

The idea of a trade corridor between the oceans has been talked about for a long time. A tweet from the Honduran government in February described these discussions as “170 years of corruption and failure”.

The first stage would take two to five years and would consist of the rehabilitation of the 20km line connecting the port of Cortés on Honduras’ Caribbean coast with San Pedro Sula, and 120km of new track between that city and the village of La Barca, where a dry port would be established.

The line would end at the Pacific, where a new port would be built at the coastal town of Amapala.

Eventually, the corridor would be able to deal with ships of 300,000 tonnes, and be able to transport 10,000 containers in 24 hours.

So far, the financers such as the Central American Bank for Economic Integration have made $200m available for conceptual design and pre-feasibility studies; as well as environmental impact and risk management assessments.

These follow a 2016 study by the Italian government, which identified the potential of Amapala.

In October 2023, Honduran president Xiomara Castro voiced her support for the corridor.

“I declare in the name of the state and for the national interest to safeguard the public and social interests of the 9 million Hondurans, the interoceanic train is a project of national interest,” she said.

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