Rail transport in Colombia

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Rail transport in Colombia
Tren del Cerrejon - Flickr - Tiger's transports.jpg
A Cerrejón coal train near Uribia, La Guajira
Track gauge
Narrow gauge
914 mm (3 ft)
3,154 km (1,960 mi)
Standard gauge
1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
150 km (93 mi)
Mapa de Colombia (ferrocarriles).svg
Railroads of Colombia

The Colombia railway network has a total length of 3,304 kilometres (2,053 mi). There are 150 kilometres (93 mi) of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge connecting Cerrejón coal mines, Tren del Cerrejón, to the maritime port of Puerto Bolivar at Bahia Portete, and 3,154 kilometres (1,960 mi) of 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge of which 2,611 kilometres (1,622 mi) are in use. [1] The state-owned railway company, Ferrocarriles Nacionales de Colombia (National Railways of Colombia), was liquidated in the 1990s. Since then passenger service is provided as tourist trains on the Bogotá savanna railway, now called Turistren, between Bogotá and Zipaquirá, and Coopsercol that provides general daily passenger service around Barrancabermeja, and its surroundings (Sogmoso, Garcia Cadena, Puerto Berrio, and Puerto Parra).


Railway concessions

Railway concessions were awarded on July 27, 1999, to Ferrocarriles del Norte de Colombia S.A. (FENOCO), as the Atlantic concession, and on November 4, 1998, to the Sociedad Concesionaria de la Red Férrea del Pacífico SA, later named Tren de Occidente SA as the Pacific concession. Since 1991 the section La Loma – Puerto Drummond, with 192 kilometres (119 mi), transports coal. Also from July 2003, the section Bogotá - Belencito, with 257 kilometres (160 mi), is operating on the Atlantic concession transporting cement. In the Pacific concession the section between La Paila and Buenaventura has a total of 292 kilometres (181 mi).

In November 2009, the Colombian government set up a new team of consultants and specialists to oversee the estimated $440m Sistema Ferroviario Central railway concession. The project involves building a 1,050 kilometres (650 mi) railway from La Dorada to Chiriguaná, linking Colombia's central area to the Santa Marta port on the Atlantic coast. Part of the proposed project are the construction of the La Dorada stretch, renovating the stretches connecting the districts of La Dorada and Buenos Aires, Puerto Berrío, Envigado and La Dorada and Facatativá, and maintaining the Chiriguaná-Buenos Aires stretch. The tender was suspended due to concerns of corruption, but restarted in February 2011. [2]

Investment programmes

The Medellin Metro, in Medellin Metro de Medellin-Antiguos trenes.jpg
The Medellín Metro, in Medellín
Heritage railway Tren de la Sabana, runs between Bogota and Zipaquira Turistren with steam engine No 76 at Usaquen station.JPG
Heritage railway Tren de la Sabana, runs between Bogotá and Zipaquirá

There is a US$600 million investment programme planned for 2008 and studies for a US$350 million new line between Puerto Berrío and Saboya. [3] Under this contract sections of the Atlantic network Neiva  Villavieja and 177 km Ibagué  – La Dorada would be built. Other sections to be built include Sogamoso  Tunja and Puerto Berrío  – Cisneros.

China is looking into constructing a 220 kilometres (140 mi) stretch of railway that would complete the link between the port cities Buenaventura and Cartagena, connecting Colombia's Pacific and Caribbean coasts. This railway alternative would compete with the Panama Canal. [4] [5] [6] Besides linking two coasts, China aims to make the import of Colombian coal and the export of Chinese manufactured goods to the Americas easier with this railway. Colombia hopes China's growing economic presence in the region will further the ratification of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, the country's biggest trading partner.[ citation needed ]

A £47m agreement between the Colombian Ministry of Transport and UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on February 3, 2014, plans to allow for the rehabilitation of two narrow gauge railway lines (one, 750 kilometres (470 mi) line from La Dorada to Chiriguaná and a second, 300 kilometres (190 mi) line from Belencito to Bogotá). [7] The construction will use local contractors and is expected to take 18 to 24 months. The lines will be for freight traffic and the government is funding the construction but plans to privatize the route upon completion. [7]

Stations served


Medellín is the only city thus far (2019) to have built a metro (rapid transit) system. Planning for a Bogotá Metro has been underway for years, and is hoped to open in 2028. Construction started in October 2020.


National Rail System, p. 4
RailwayLineConstruction period
Ferrocarril de Bolívar Barranquilla - Puerto Salgar - Puerto Colombia 1869-1873
Ferrocarril de Santa Marta Santa Marta - Ciénaga - Aracataca - Fundación 1881-1906
Ferrocarril de Cartagena Cartagena - Calamar1889-1894
Ferrocarril de Girardot Girardot - Apulo - Facatativá (connection with FC de La Sabana)1881-1909
Ferrocarril de La Sabana y CundinamarcaBogotá - Facatativá - Puerto Salgar1881-1909
Ferrocarril del NorteBogotá - Puente del Común - Cajicá - Zipaquirá - Chiquinquirá - Barbosa 1889-1935
Ferrocarril del Sur Soacha - Sibaté - Bogotá (connection with FC de La Sabana) - Tequendama Falls 1895-1927
Ferrocarril del OrientePuente Nuñez - Fucha River - Yomasa - Usme 1914-1931
Ferrocarril del Carare Tunja - Vélez 1925-1928
Ferrocarril del NordesteBogotá - Usaquén - Albarracín - Tunja - Sogamoso - Paz del Río1925-1938
Ferrocarril del PacíficoBuenaventura - Córdoba - Dagua - Yumbo - Cali - Palmira - Buga - Tuluá - Bugalagrande - Zarzal - Cartago and Cali - Jamundí - Popayán1872-1927
Ferrocarril del Tolima-HuilaGirardot - Ibagué (connection with FC Armenia) - Chicoral - Espinal - Villavieja - Neiva1893-1937
Ferrocarril de AntioquiaPuerto Berrío - Pavas - Medellín1874-1914
Ferrocarril Armenia - IbaguéArmenia (connection with FC Pacífico) - Ibagué (connection with FC Tolima)1914-1949
Ferrocarril de CaldasPereira - Puerto Caldas - Manizales and Pereira - Quimbaya - Armenia (connection with FC Pacífico)1915-1929
Ferrocarril de Cúcuta Cúcuta - Puerto Santander - Venezuela and Cúcuta - Río Táchira 1878-1888
Ferrocarril del Atlántico Puerto Wilches - Puerto Berrío, Puerto Salgar - Puerto Berrío - Gamarra - Fundación y La Dorada - Puerto Berrío 1950-1961

See also

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  1. "Country profile: Colombia" (PDF). Library of Congress – Federal Research Division. February 2007. p. 18. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
  2. "Ferroviario Central Back On The Tenders List – Corporate Financing Week" . Retrieved 2011-02-19.
  3. "Colombia to launch US$600m tender package". Railway Gazette International . October 2007.
  4. John Paul Rathbone, Naomi Mapstone (2011-02-13). "China in talks over Panama Canal rival (subscription required)". Financial Times. Retrieved 2011-02-14.
  5. Wheatley, Jonathan (2011-02-14). "Colombia's smart canal". Financial Times. Retrieved 2011-02-14.
  6. "China in talk with Columbia over transcontinental railway: Colombian president". Xinhuanet. 2011-02-14. Archived from the original on February 17, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-14.
  7. 1 2 Colombian railway revival gets underway, 10 Feb 2014, http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/news/cs-america/single-view/view/colombian-railway-revival-gets-underway.html
  8. South American rail forum, http://www.railpage.com.au/f-t11342426.htm

Further reading

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