Rail transport in Colombia

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Railroads of Colombia

The Colombia railway network has a total length of 3,304 km. There are 150 km of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge connecting Cerrejón coal mines to maritime port of Puerto Bolivar at Bahia de Portete, and 3,154 km of 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge of which 2,611 km are in use.[1] The state-owned railway company (National Railways of Colombia) was liquidated in the 1990s. Since then the only passenger trains are tourist trains on the Tren Turistico de la Sabana between Bogotá and Zipaquira. In addition a funicular operates up the mountain of Monserrate in Bogotá.

Railway concessions[edit]

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 kilometers, transports coal. Also from July 2003 the section Bogota - Belencito, with 257 kilometers, is operating on the Atlantic concession transporting cement. In the Pacific concession the section between La Paila and Buenaventura has a total of 292 kilometers.

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 km railway from La Dorada to Chiriguaná, linking Colombia's central area to the Santa Marta port on the Atlantic coast. The winning team will build the La Dorada stretch, renovate the stretches connecting the districts of La Dorada and Buenos Aires, Puerto Berrío, Envigado and La Dorada and Facatativa, and maintain the Chiriguaná-Buenos Aires stretch. The tender was suspended due to concerns of corruption, but restarted in February 2011.[2]

Investment programmes[edit]

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 km (136 mi) railway 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 km line from La Dorada to Chiriguaná and a second, 300 km 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[edit]


Main article: Metro de Medellín

Medellín is the only city thus far (2015) to have built a metro (rapid transit) system. Consultants were appointed in 2014 to develop a metro system in the capital city Bogotá.[8] (see → Bogotá Metro)


Railway Line Construction 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 - Calamar 1889-1894
Ferrocarril de Girardot Girardot - Apulo - Facatativá (connection with FC de La Sabana) 1881-1909
Ferrocarril de La Sabana y Cundinamarca Bogotá - Facatativá - Puerto Salgar 1881-1909
Ferrocarril del Norte Bogotá - Puente del Común - Cajicá - Zipaquirá - Chiquinquirá - Barbosa 1889-1935
Ferrocarril del Sur Soacha - Sibaté - Bogotá (connection with FC de La Sabana) - Salto del Tequendama 1895-1927
Ferrocarril del Oriente Puente Nuñez - Río Fucha - Yomasa - Usme 1914-1931
Ferrocarril del Carare Tunja - Vélez 1925-1928
Ferrocarril del Nordeste Bogotá - Usaquén - Albarracín - Tunja - Sogamoso - Paz del Río 1925-1938
Ferrocarril del Pacífico Buenaventura - Córdoba - Dagua - Yumbo - Cali - Palmira - Buga - Tuluá - Bugalagrande - Zarzal - Cartago y Cali - Jamundí - Popayán 1872-1927
Ferrocarril del Tolima-Huila Girardot - Ibagué (connection with FC Armenia) - Chicoral - Espinal - Villavieja - Neiva 1893-1937
Ferrocarril de Antioquia Puerto Berrío - Pavas - Medellín 1874-1914
Ferrocarril Armenia - Ibagué Armenia (connection with FC Pacífico) - Ibagué (connection with FC Tolima) 1914-1949
Ferrocarril de Caldas Pereira - Puerto Caldas - Manizales y Pereira - Quimbaya - Armenia (connection with FC Pacífico) 1915-1929
Ferrocarril de Cúcuta Cúcuta - Puerto Santander - Venezuela y 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

Railway links with adjacent countries[edit]

See also[edit]


  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. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  7. ^ a b 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. ^ "Urban Rail News in Brief". Railway Gazette International. May 2008. 
  9. ^ South American rail forum, http://www.railpage.com.au/f-t11342426.htm

Further reading[edit]

  • Arias de Greiff, Gustavo; Dewhurst, Peter K (2006). La Segunda Mula de Hierro: Historia de los Ferrocarriles Colombianos a través de sus locomotora / The Second Iron Mule: History of the Colombian Railroads through their Locomotives. Bogotá: Panamericana Formas e Impresos. ISBN 9583397318.  (Spanish) (English)
  • Walker, Christopher (2005). Narrow Gauge in Colombia: Railways and Steam Locomotives. Skipton: Trackside Publications. ISBN 1900095238. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Rail transport in Colombia at Wikimedia Commons