Panama: plans for Central America’s first monorail on track
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Panama: plans for Central America’s first monorail on track

A Japanese company looks set to build a monorail in Panama, the first in Central America.

Last week, Japan and Panama sign a memorandum of understanding  for the construction of a $2 billion monorail using Japanese technology.

The monorail is to form the new Metro Line 3, which will traverse the Panama Canal.

According to a Bloomberg report, Panama’s vice minister of foreign affairs, Luis Miguel Hincapie, said in an interview in Tokyo last Thursday (January 14) that the agreement includes funding from the government-backed Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

“This is the start of a new era of cooperation with Japan, and is very important for Panama,” Hincapie said.

Japanese companies Hitachi and Mitsubishi have both expressed interest in project.

National Panamanian newspaper La Prensa has reported that Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela is to visit Japan in April to finalize the monorail plans and to concentrate on strengthening business relations between the two countries.

A pleasant commute

According to initial plans, the third Metro line will run 27 kilometers from Albrook– Panama city’s main transportation hub for destinations in the rest of the country –  to La Chorrera, a small city west of the capital. The line will include 14 stations, and is estimated to be completed in 2022.

Commuting time would be drastically reduced. The estimated time by monorail from the furthest planned station, Ciudad del Futuro in La Chorrera, to Albrook is 45 minutes.  Due to traffic congestion, this journey can currently take up to three hours.

Indeed, residents of Panama City and the surrounding areas have long suffered poor public transportation, congested roads, and long commutes.

During the construction of the first Metro line, the traffic situation temporarily worsened. But much to commuters’ relief, in 2014 Panama’s – and Central America’s – first Metro line was installed.

Ready for its first passengers, the line was inaugurated in April 2014, and during its first week of operation, the new Metro system carried some one million passengers.

Line 1 has 15 stations, and runs from Albrook to San Isidro station in the north of the city.

Last October, construction of Line 2 began. Estimated to take four years to complete, Line 2 will run 21 kilometres between Albrook and Rana de Oro in the east of the city.  The line will have 16 stations and the journey between the Rana de Oro and Albrook will take 35 minutes.

Costs and construction

Costing some $32 million dollars, the Line 2 project is being supervised by the consortium PML2, which is comprised of Spanish company Ayesa, the Metropolitan Transports of Barcelona – Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB)  in Spanish – and the U.S.-based engineering company Louis Berger.

Louis Berger’s vice president in charge of Latin America and the Caribbean, Sofia Berger, said in a press statement:  “We are honored to play a key role in the second line of the Panama metro system and welcome the  opportunity to assist in developing Panama’s transportation network.”

Although a first for the region, monorail transportation is popular in Japan. The Tokyo Monorail was constructed in 1964 by Hitachi Monorail, and is one of the world’s busiest monorail systems.

See also:

Leaking locks disrupt Panama Canal expansion