Bolivia is a large producer of raw materials, especially minerals, agricultural and forestry products. In general, owing to their large volume and weight, it is necessary to provide a transport service that facilitates the entire process, contributes to improving productivity and reduces road traffic. It is worthwhile highlighting that the country has a high potential as a logistic bridge between its two oceanic watersheds. A situation that affords sizeable business opportunities within and beyond its borders.
Nowadays, the rail freight system is configured through two networks that cover different areas. On the one hand, the western one that shifts mining products. This branch connects the extraction zones of Oruro and Potosí with the Chilean port of Antofagasta in the Pacific, and accesses Córdoba and Buenos Aires in Argentina. On the other hand, the eastern segment, where soy is transported, which allows the connection of eastern Bolivia with Argentina, through the border area of Yacuiba. The current load capacity per axis does not exceed 15 metric tons (MT), a figure that must be increased to cope with the volume of goods to be transported in the future.
Well aware of these new challenges and needs, the Government has also targeted the improvement of freight traffic. Thus, it is included in the “Economic and Social Development Plan 2016-2020”. Within the chapter entitled “Universalisation of basic services” a section dedicated to rail transport is included.
Since the implementation of this plan, advancements have been made in the construction of the Motacucito-Mutún-Puerto Busch railway section, which will contribute to the bolstering of the country’s steel industry. Alongside this, up to 2020 work will continue on the construction of logistics platforms that allow for the integration of the national territory through intermodal transport systems (road, rail, river and air), for the benefit of producers, exporters and importers, strengthening connections between the different regions for commercial purposes and promoting distribution points to consumption centres.
To comply with the forecast result, as detailed in this development plan, a series of actions will also be implemented, such as the development of a “Logistics Infrastructure Plan” throughout the country, the advance in the design of the “Comprehensive Transport System” with a multimodal approach and specialist logistics infrastructure; in addition to the connection of the different modes of transport prioritising agricultural and mining products. The aim is to foster the integration of networks, forging links with the main ports and nodes (with intermodal platforms) and international transits.
New rail corridors
One of the key points that will contribute to the development of transnational logistics chains will be the future Central Bi-Oceanic Railway Corridor. With this project the transport capacity and the volume of freight that will be mobilised by rail will increase. Two of the main connections will be those established between the Port of Ilo and La Paz and between Santa Cruz and Puerto Quijarro. According to the market study, in 2021, 10 million tons / year will be mobilised, while in 2055, this figure will stand at 24 million.
Regarding the rolling stock to be acquired, the large volume that will be transported along with the diverse nature of the products (mineral bulk, liquid bulks, agricultural products, steel materials, cars, chemical products, containers, etc.) have also been borne in mind. Thus, the planned coaches will feature specific technical characteristics with a maximum length between hooks of 20 metres; a height of 5 metres and a maximum width of three metres. The trains will have a capacity of 4,000 gross tons, equivalent to 2,800 net tons. Each of them will be comprised of 40 wagons.
With a view to the future, the planned improvements in the transport of goods by rail will place Bolivia in a strategic centre for international trade.