Urban transport: metropolitan and light rail projects, on the rise

Colombia is committed to rail for urban mobility. A sustainable medium that articulates the development of large nuclei such as Bogota or Medellin.

The railroad forges its path into the large urban centres in Colombia. The advantages of this medium, due to its accessibility, high transport capacity and its low emissions, mean it is the most suitable medium for mobility challenges faced in the main cities of the country.

Within this context of commitment to sustainable and efficient alternatives with which to reduce rolling traffic and congestion, the Government has designed a national policy (National Urban Transport Policy) through which key initiatives have been structured such as the Integrated System of Mass Transportation (SITM) and the Strategic Public Transport Systems (SETP).

In the railway sphere, one of the lines of action focuses on Bogotá, where the network is composed of an interaction between the different systems.

This mesh is the largest in the country and in 2017 registered about 12.2 million trips per day. 42% of these trips were made in the Integrated Public Transportation System of the city, 26% in TransMilenio (bus and cable car), while 22% was in private cars.

Given the need to provide more means to respond to population growth and improve services, in July 2016, the City Council of Bogotá gave the green light to the Mayor’s Office to expand to 5 billion dollars (4.422 billion euros) financing of mobility infrastructure.

Of these funds, 2.1 billion Colombian pesos (594.1 million euros) are allocated to the construction and improvement of the structure of the system, in addition to the road work of of the motorway named Carrera 7.

First line of the Bogota Metropolitan Railway

The capital will have a metro system. It is an infrastructure project that will change mobility in the coming years. The first line will have 23.96 kilometres of track layout and 16 stations – ten of them will have direct and integrated connection with the TransMilenio system.  The route will begin in the depot yard of Bosa until it reaches the junction of 72nd Street and Caracas. The route will run southeast to northeast and will pass through Avenida Villavicencio, Primero de Mayo-where it will connect with the NQS and Calle Octava-and then with Avenida Primera until it reaches its final destination.

This line will have an estimated cost of 4.347 billion dollars (3.851 billion euros). It should be noted that it has the backing of the European Investment Bank (EIB), which will finance 480 million dollars (425 million euros).


Overhead light rail system in Rionegro

Rionegro, in Antioquia, is set to become the first city in the country to boast an automatic elevated system or APM (Automatic People Mover). The project will have, according to the design, 17.8 kilometres over viaducts, with a single track of 13.06 kilometres and a double track of 4.50 kilometres. Along the route, there will be 14 stations until the line reaches José María Córdova airport. It is estimated that the system will transport around 500,000 passengers per day.

With regard to rolling stock, it is planned to acquire a fleet of 28 cars that will be operated without a driver, at an average speed of 38 kilometres per hour. Currently, the technical, legal and financial structuring to put it on track is ready.

Western Regional Tramway

This entails a project that seeks to implement a light rail system that connects the municipalities surrounding Bogota. It will have a length of 41 kilometres, feature 18 stations and will transport more than 126,000 passengers on a daily basis. It will take 48 minutes on average from the municipality of Facatativá to the heart of the capital, reducing by 60% the travel time between Bogotá and the Sabana de Occidente.

The estimated investment will be 1.7 billion dollars (1.506 billion euros). In November 2018, the tender for technical and operational studies was awarded. As recently explained by the Governor of Cundinamarca, Jorge Emilio Rey Ángel, from last April to October 2019, works were underway to have the final bidding documents to carry out the tender awarding process and in the same period the construction and operation contracts will be awarded.

According to the forecast schedule of actions, the construction phase will begin in 2021 with the aim of starting commercial operations two years later, in 2023. Regiotram aims to improve mobility in the western corridor of the centre of the country.


The march of sustainable transport continues in Colombia with the start-up of new systems. Amongst them, TransMiCable, a cable car that has 163 cabins, which began operating in Ciudad Bolívar (location number 19 of the Capital District of Bogotá) on December 29, 2018.  It has already recorded in its first operational quarter, an average demand of 21,000 passengers on business days.

There are four stations along its route: Tunal Station, Juan Pablo II, Manitas and Mirador del Paraíso. This network directly benefits about 80,000 inhabitants in the area of influence of the System and has managed to significantly reduce the transfer times between the neighbourhoods Mirador and Paraíso, in the upper part of Ciudad Bolívar, and the Tunal Portal to one hour.

MIO Cali Cable

MIO Cali Cable is a suspended aerial cable transport system that connects the Cañaveralejo Terminal with the Siloé area, located in the southwest of the city, in the hillside area of the Western Mountain Range on its way through Cali. This system shifts between 6,000 and 7,000 people from Monday to Friday. Since the beginning of operations four years ago, MIO Cable has become a tourist attraction, especially in the upper part of its route.

Medellín Metropolitan Railway

The second largest city in Colombia, with two million inhabitants, it is located in the Aburrá Valley. Since its inauguration in November 1995, it has become a key means of transport for urban mobility. The metropolitan railway is part of the Integrated Mass Transportation System of the Aburra Valley (SITVA).

There are two lines: the A line that connects the city from Niquía, in the north to La Estrella, in the south in a 26-kilometre route with 21 stations. The second, Line B, begins in San Javier, in the east and ends in San Antonio, the station located in the centre of Medellín. The Metro system also includes the connection with 5 Metrocable lines, 1 tram line (Ayacucho tram), 2 Metroplus lines and several integrated buse routes.

Master Plan 2006-2030

At present, the “Metro Master Plan 2006-2030” is underway, which includes the “Master Plan for Expansion”. It contemplates 16 new lines that will be added to existing ones. Two will be trains, five of cables, two more for buses, plus a further tram line.

The Cable Picacho branch is already under construction, with an advance rate of 45%, and the Southern Rings of Metroplús. Another of the works included is the modernisation of railway signalling, with which it is intended that frequencies in trains improve from 3 to 2:30 minutes by the year 2021.

The corridor of the Multipurpose Railway System (Antioquia railway) is also making swift progress, which is in the stage of study and design to appraise its viability. A phase that has a budget of 7.3 billion pesos.

In the Antioquia development plan “Think Big 2016-2019”, the reactivation of this project is included. For this, the “Promotora Ferrocarril de Antioquia SAS” firm has been created. The purpose is the rehabilitation of the 306-kilometre railway section.

The layout proposed in the studies runs for 305 kilometres. The route is divided into three sections: La Pintada-Caldas (99.7 kilometres); Caldas-Botero (80.9 kilometres) and Botero-Puerto Berrío (124.4 kilometres).

There will be acquired 27 electric train units of three cars each, which will meet the demand during the first five to eight years of service. The capacity is 300 passengers per coach.

With the construction of the Antioquia Railroad, in addition, four subregions of the department (Southwest, Valle de Aburrá, Northeast, Magdalena Medio), which have a population of more than 4.2 million inhabitants, will benefit.

If the schedule goes according to plan, construction of section 2 of the Antioquia Railroad, between Caldas and Botero, beginning in 2020 and its operation starting in 2023, is expected to begin.