For over a century, the Panama Canal has been used to transport goods from South America’s Pacific Coast to its Atlantic Coast. Inspired by such an idea, China is planning on constructing a massive rail link of their own in the country that would act as a rival to the existing canal and allow for the rapid transfer of raw goods, including coal.

According to the Panamanian President Juan Manuel Santos, the 220km rail connection would start at Cartagena, on the northern Atlantic coast of Colombia and go all the way to the Pacific coast. Speaking to the Financial Times, Santos said: “It’s a real proposal [… ] and it is quite advanced.”

Advanced is one way to described it, and grand is another. If the project does go forward, the rail link would be almost three times the length of the canal itself. However Santos believes that the Chinese have done their math for the scheme.

“The studies [the Chinese] have made on the costs of transporting per ton, the cost of investment, they all work out, ” he said. “I don’t want to create exaggerated expectations, but it makes a lot of sense [… ] Asia is the new motor of the world economy.”

Although details of exacts costs are vague, the project’s supporters have pointed out that the rail link would not only be faster, but cheaper than maintaining the canal, which is currently undergoing a $5.25 billion expansion. The Chinese investment plan would also see the construction of a new city south of Cartagena, designed to assemble Chinese exports.

Rail is quickly becoming China’s infrastructure investment of choice, not just in their home country, but abroad. There have also been rumors of a massive Europe-China rail link, and the country is investing in rail projects around the world including a $7.6 billion plan to build a 791km railway, plus an expansion of the port of Buenaventura in Columbia. The project would allow for the shipping of up to 40 million tons of freight per year, as well as the export of coal, of which China is still a large user.

China’s rail expertise has made it a world leader and its knowledge is being sought around the globe, including in Angola, Algeria, Iran, South Africa and even the United States.

via The Guardian

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