Guatemala Metro would start in 2027 if it gets funds for the final studies

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By LatAm Reports Staff Writers

Government must disburse budget for white line pre-investment by next August. They seek to determine user demand, estimated ticket cost and train technology.

Guatemala could count on the first line of the subway project in 2027, as long as it is possible to fulfill the timetable that the central government and the Municipality of Guatemala have set themselves. The closest milestone is to have the funds for two technical studies to be developed from September and define which unit will be implemented, as well as the acquisition of technology, rolling stock and signalling.

The also known as Blanca Line (which goes from the Mayoreo Central in Villa Nueva to the Central Station of Fegua, in the Plaza Barrios of zone 1), is part of an ambitious set of works called the Metro System, planned to be executed in 38 months, which have already started running. The next step, according to the timetable of the 2024-2027 metro project, is the initial bases for carrying out two of the eight studies required by the project.

Giovanni Aragón, director of Urban Mobility of the Municipality of Guatemala, points out that it is necessary to have the budget for the execution of some studies – which will determine in detail the demand for the users of the subway, in the same way others the rolling stock and the technology that we will use.

These studies, which are proposed to begin this year, are the market, as well as the social and liberation of the way. The first aims to analyze the specifications of the service, the volume of users who will make use of it and the price they would be willing to pay for it. While the social and liberation study of the way, the desirability of carrying out the project will be defined by measuring the effects on the impact on society. For these, Aragon estimates that the government must designate the funds no later than August this year to meet the timetable.

At the administrative-financial level, the first progress was made when the Ministry of Public Finance presented to the Congress of the Republic the proposal for the readjustment of the State Income and Exit Budget for this fiscal year. In one of the points of the communiqué issued by the institution, it is confirmed that Q250 million would be allocated to pre-investment studies related to the blue and white metro project; hospital, educational and cultural infrastructure, among others.

The next step is to define which institution will make the work a reality, executing the funds to have the first tests between May and June 2027. Aragon emphasizes that once the money is available, it is necessary to define who will be the Executing Unit to start the studies, as well as the acquisitions of rolling stock and signage. There are both possibilities for the Central Government to implement the corresponding budget or the Municipality through the corresponding unit, he believes.

Last week, during the presentation of the Labour Plan of the Ministry of Communications, Infrastructure and Housing 2024-2028, the minister of that portfolio, Felix Alvarado, was emphatic in saying that the project must be done. From the point of view of the pulses of the team that we are working and from the practical one, (where) the relationship is crystallized to talk to the municipality, we have to do it well,” says the minister.

The President of the Republic himself, Bernardo Arévalo, referred in one of his social media accounts to the progress in the construction of uneven steps that are part of the Metro System project, a project that goes from north to south, enters through the Belize Bridge and reaches the Cenma in Petapa using the train track, he explains. In addition, he pointed out that the municipality is working on this project. We have partnered and together we are building slope-to-slope steps and bridges that are needed for that line to be working, referring to the entire mobility system to which the subway is part.

In addition to the uneven steps that are part of the project and that have already begun, there are still a number of financial, legal and technical issues that must be resolved so that the Metro System is in place by 2027.

Right of way

The Metro System is proposed in two phases. In the first, which has an extension of 11 kilometers, Aragon estimates that it has a cost of US$580 million. The second phase ranges from zone 1 to Central North in zone 17.

With regard to the first kilometers of the project, Aragon believes that the only legal challenge would be in relation to the right of way, which fortunately has space and are relatively easy to overcome from proper planning.

The second part is where Rafael Valladares, a researcher at the Center for Urban and Regional Studies (Ceur) detects a challenge in terms of the right of way that goes from zone 4 to zone 18, where he considers that the issues of the inhabitants who have had to, due to different economic situations, invade the places close to the railroad tracks, have not been thought of solutions to transfer them, he adds.

Valladares points out that the proposed route of this transport should reach zone 18 in order to have a greater impact on the population. When we carried out the study of the Riel Metro in the Ceur, we made the criticism that it arrived in Centra Norte and that it had to be extended to places like Palencia so that it would be more useful and that it would be incorporated into zone 18, which is one of the most populated.

Type of train

Counting on the Metro System by 2027 has other technical challenges, according to Valladares, one of which relates to the construction of a bridge that can delay the completion of the schedule. From the proposed section of the Atanasio Tzul road it is proposed to make a bridge to the Cenma, that is what there is, that bridge attracts attention because that is going to be longer the project, says the researcher.

As for people’s mobility, Valladares says, does it draw attention that no intersections are being created to connect other places. There are going to be stations, but from those stations how are people going to mobilize others elsewhere?

Preliminaryly, the Municipality of Guatemala estimates that the Metro System will have 20 trains, however, the pending studies will indicate what is the type of technology and wagons we need on the train, and according to this technology you will look for ways to acquire the rolling equipment, Aragon plans.

In the face of all technical aspects, the one he considers most important is the type of propulsion of the train. In this case if the train is mobilized by electric power, then the corresponding studies will have to be carried out and the provision of this type of current for the movement of the train, determines Aragon. This one, he considers, is one of the technical challenges that would have to be borne in mind in order to meet the established times.

In the case of Guatemala, according to Eddy Morataya, general manager of the Municipal Transport Company, it is necessary to define a train friendly to the urban stroke of the city that will integrate green garden spaces. What we’ll see will be a light rail, possibly it can be electric and also with clock-to-capacity wagons of 300 people for each wagon, he estimates.

From the municipality, they have proposed that the subway connect with bus stations. For Morataya it is important to build parking lots for cars, as well as the connections of the Metro System with other systems, such as bicycles, because this combination, which is called multimodality in urban projects, makes the car not only option to reach the destination.

Move from south to north, a calvary

Every morning Diego Marín, a neighbor of zone 5, Villa Nueva, leaves his home at 5:30 am to his work in zone 4 of Guatemala City. A Free Press team made with Marín on a working day the tour from Ciudad Real street to the Tipic factory to enter the Atanasio Tzul road, zone 12. It takes me an hour and a half, but now with the rains (June) I have taken up to two hours due to the poor quality of the streets and the constant growth of vehicles, he estimates.

In the afternoon, the story is similar. Diego takes up to three hours to get home. If I leave at 5:00 pm, I get to my house around 8:30 pm. When I wait it’s to not do those three hours in traffic and not spend gas. It’s worn out being in traffic.

Precisely, on Diego’s route, it is proposed to carry out the white line of the Metro System, which could impact all those passengers who move from south to north and vice versa. Diego, who has dawned since childhood to mobilize for the city, believes that in Guatemala it is needed an effective and fast public transport that has the capacity to transport thousands of people to various parts of the city to solve traffic, a problem of years.

The white line of the Metro System will have 12 stops on a journey of 11 kilometers that, according to preliminary information from the Municipality of Guatemala, could have a capacity of 130 thousand passengers a day and will move at a speed of 30 km/h, this means that for the Guatemalan who moves from Villa Nueva, on the Atanasio Tzul Causeway, to zone 1 of Guatemala City could take up to a third of the time that is delayed in his vehicle today.

This article has been translated after first appearing in Prensa Libre