Argentina to buy Russian electric trains for diesel-only suburban railroad
The Government of Argentina has allocated US $ 800 million to the purchase of Russian electric trains for a non-electrified railroad, the Buenos Aires daily La Nación reported.
According to the news article, these trains can be used at any of Buenos Aires’ suburban railway network, except at the San Martín line for which they were reportedly bought.
“The public tender 451-0014-LPU18 was awarded for the acquisition of 70 multiple electric units, the provision of technical documentation and the provision of technical training services, technical assistance and unit maintenance to the firm TMH International Limited Liability Company for the sum of US $ 864,217,959.42,″ according to article 2 of the resolution published in the Official Gazette.
At the beginning of the tender it was stated that the new coaches would be used on all lines, but later in the process it was mentioned that these particular trains were going to be for the San Martín line, which currently operates outdated Chinese units acquired during Cristina Kirchner’s presidency.
Electrification plans for the San Martín Line are nowhere near in time. In 2008, then-President Cristina Kirchner called for national and international public bids to carry out engineering works and comprehensive electrification of the 55-kilometer-long San Martín line from Retiro to Pilar. Works were to begin in two months and be completed in six years, at a cost of US $ 650 million dollars. Ten years later, nothing concrete haas been done.
Under President Mauricio Macri the electrification of the San Martín Line was announced yet again, this time for US $ 500 million. Nothing new has happened since.
When asked about the lack opf electricity supply along the San Martín Line, government officials quoted by La Nación replied that “The [Russian] trains are not only for the San Martín, they will be used to reinforce other lines and also to be used in extensions of power lines. On the other hand, with regard to electrification, a new specification is being drawn up, made by specialists, which will speed up and make its execution more effective.”
In 2018, TMH was awarded a tender for the repair of 24 diesel locomotives, 160 passenger cars and 48 baggage cars on the San Martín line.
According to two sources checked by La Nación, the Russian company would be in breach of contract since by now it should have delivered all units and has instead only repaired half a dozen, allegedly due to lack of spare parts of Chinese origin in addition to inadequate infrastructure at railway workshops, currently in Russian hands.
TMH beat French company Alstom for the supply of the new trains after the latter refused to change its production line as per new requirements added to the original tender, thus leaving the Russian firm as sole bidders for the contract.
The purchase of the new trains is to be financed through an US $ 850 million loan from Russia’s Eximbank, which is to be paid back in 108 installments with a minimum grace period of 48 months, and which is still pending approval.
Argentina has a history of buying foreign equipment which needs repairs.
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(Source: La Nación)