Rescue of the Railways?
The Government of Ecuador and the Ministry of Tourism want to reestablish passenger transport over part or all of the railway network. There are an American and a Peruvian railway company (the names of the companies have not been released) interested to run the railway. More details have not yet been given.
(Source: Volta o Trem 25-2)
November 2020 there was a transfer from Riobamba to Quito. 4 freight cars were transferred. In the meantime, the entire inventory of the railway has been handed over from the tourism ministry to the transport ministry. There is still no solution as to whether the railway will ever come back.
(Source: Volta o Trem 25-1)
The country was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and president Lenin Moreno saw himself forced to dramatically cut state expenses. As a consequence of this, seven entities have to be wound up in order to save expenses of about US$ 900m. Affected are some of the country's embassies, the post office and also the state railway company Ferrocarriles del Ecuador Empresa Pública (FEEP).
FEEP replaced the former state railway company Empresa Nacional de Ferrocarriles del Estado (ENFE) in 2010 in an attempt to reorganise the railway network, this having been declared a national monument in 2008.
FEEP took over railway lines with a length of 966,1 km, of which 506,7 km were rehabilitated between 2010 and 2015, coupled with the promise to rebuild the remaining lines with the exception of Sibambe to Cuenca. Later, the project of a new railway linking Guayaquil and Salinas along the Pacific coast was added, however, no work on the ground has been carried out as yet. After spending US$ 386,8m, tourist trains were introduced on some sections of the line: Otavalo – Ibarra – Salinas, Quito – El Boliche – Latacunga, Riobamba – Urbina – Ambato, Riobamba – Alausí – Sibambe (the famous Devil's Nose), Durán – Bucay – Riobamba. A short stretch on the former route to Cuenca, between Tambo and Baños del Inca, was also operated for a few years by a railbus. The luxury train „Tren Crucero“, which became world-famous in a very short time, was meant to be the jewel in the crown.
As the railway exclusively served tourist purposes, it was inaccessible for the majority of the Ecuadorian population; there were only some sporadic social excursions operated. Regular trains, operating three to six times per week, cost from US$ 25.00 upwards, which was simply too expensive for most people. Although repeatedly announced, a local train linking Ibarra and Salinas, mainly for school travel, never came about. The only truly local traffic was at the coastal end of the northern line between San Lorenzo and Cachavi/El Progreso, a journey of 45 km. It was operated by a vehicle called Ferrocamión, a converted lorry carrying passengers and freight. That stretch of line never suffered severe damage by floods or earthquakes, and the villages of Cachavi, San Javier, La Boca and Najurungo have only precarious access by road. The fare charged for the route was US$ 2.90 for a single journey, which was just about affordable for local residents.
The presidential decree made all 327 employees of the railway redundant. An average cost of US$ 921.00 per employee and month has been quoted, and the state will now save US$ 3'613'636.20 anually on salaries.
Passenger numbers have been decreasing during the last 2 years, and the interest of the state in its railway waned. An annual deficit of about US$ 2,1m dampened the spirits, which became evident when after heavy rainfall a section of embankment near San Roque collapsed, thereby cutting traffic between Ibarra and Otavalo - so far, no repair work has been carrried out there!
In 2018, FEEP operated 10 diesel-electric locomotives, 7 steam engines, 7 railbuses (the famous converted road buses), 36 passenger carriages (some newer ones with air-condition and some older ones with wooden bodies) and 3 generator vans. These were looked after in 4 workshops.
Back in December 2019, when the railway was still operating, the commercial manager of FEEP, Mr Patricio Jaramillo, advised that closure of the railway would generate a cost of around US$ 8m per year for the preservation and safeguarding of the assets. This seems to be a hint that the closure didn't come as a full-blown surprise.
In recent news, FEEP sought expressions of interest for taking over railway operations. PeruRail, operator of the trains to Machu Picchu and others, appears to be interested. Other voices suggest that a reactivation of the railways in Ecuador only has a chance if the network is made available for freight traffic.
(Source: Fahrplancenter/Volta o Trem)
The Republic of Ecuador is on the brink of bankrupcy due to the corona pandemic and other facts, which is why 7 state-owned companies are being dissolved by the government. Among them is Ferrocarriles del Ecuador Empresa del Estado FEEP (State Railways)! The railway, which was rebuilt for a lot of money, was only used for tourism and was permanently in deficit (deficit of around US $ 2 million a year). Since tourism came to a complete standstill, the 327 employees had to be fired. What is going to happen to infrastructure and rolling-stock, as well as the 4 workshops, is not yet known. Preserving the entire Railway would cost around US $ 8m. a year.
(Source: Volta o Trem 24-4)
All trains have been cancelled from March 17, 2020 on until further notice.
(Source: Volta o Trem 24-2)
Ibarra – Oatavalo
The Tren de la Libertad II between Ibarra and Otavalo has been removed from the excursion programme which confirms that the railway line to Otavalo is still not transitable. There is flood damage near San Roque, but no repair work has been carried out so far.
(Source: Tren Ecuador)
Nearly no fund
The current government is providing hardly any funding for the maintenance of the railway infrastructure. As a consequence, the state railway FEEP has so far been unable to repair a section of line between San Roque and Otavalo in the north of the country following flood damage/washout. The question has been asked whether it is worth the while to operate the railway altogether as it serves exclusively tourist purposes.
(Source: FEEP; FLB correspondent B. Sensenschmidt)
Tramway of Cuenca
The new tramway line in the city of Cuenca opened for traffic on 16 April 2019.
(Source: FLB correspondent B. Sensenschmidt)
Tramway at Cuenca
Works on the new Tramway at Cuenca started again, with the help of the French consortium ACTN and they are now at full swing. Hopes are increasing to open the tramway before the end of 2018, with a delay of 3 years.
(Source: Volta o Trem 22-3)
Tramway of Cuenca
The new tramway of Cuenca is facing a number of major problems. The city government has cancelled the contract with the Cuatro Ríos syndicate on the grounds of noncompliance. Almost 2 of the 11 km of track are still not complete, most traffic lights at road intersections are missing, and power supply to the overhead lines on completed sections is insufficient. No ticket vending machines have been sourced and installed yet. Although it was originally planned that the entire line would be operational in December 2017, a few other issues remain without a solution. One key question is whether a fare of US$ 0.25 per passenger will be sufficient. As 120'000 passenger journeys per day are expected, this would result in a surplus of about US$ 1.6m per year. However, recent investigations have shown that the calculations only partially include costs for maintenance of fleet and infrastructure as those figures weren't known until now. Another outstanding matter is who will be the operator of the system. Talks were held with the Metro Quito and the state railway of Ecuador, but both withdraw from pursuing the matter. A request lodged with Metro Medellín in Colombia hasn't received a conclusive answer. Only about 40 of the required 110 employees have been hired and partially trained so far. The Cuenca city government now fears a delay of about one year until opening of the tramway, and additional costs of about US$ 10m could incur.
(Source: El Comercio)
Tren de la Dulzura
Every Friday and every second Saturday and Sunday Tren de la Dulzura runs now Durán – Bucay and v.v., the other Saturdays and Sundays it operates as Tren de la Dulzura Plus between Durán, Yaguachi and Naranjito.
(Source: Volta o Trem 21-4)
Several Changes of Offers
State Railways FEEP changed some of their offer: Tren del Hielo Riobamba-Urbina has been withdrawn (the Urbina-Ambato section still runs), the locals between Durán and Yaguachi and the railcar between Tambo and Baños del Inca have also been withdrawn. There are two new offers. Every Saturday a train runs from Durán to Alausi, returning Sundays and Tuesday to Friday a train operates from Riobamba to Alausi and back with connections to from Sibambe ober the Devil’s Nose. Generally more loco-hauled trains are now operating than railcars.
(Source: Volta o Trem 20-3)
The state railway FEEP is struggling with severe problems affecting their railbuses, the famous „Autoferros“. Only a few of these vehicles are currently in operation, and most traffic is covered by loco-hauled trains. This led to a change in the range of excursions on offer. The railbuses Tambo – Baños del Inca/Coyoctor and Riobamba – Urbina have been withdrawn. There is, however, a new loco-hauled train named „Tren de la Quinua“, covering one return trip Riobamba – Alausí Tuesday to Friday and establishing a direct connection at Alausí to a train over the famous „Devil's nose“ to Sibambe and vv. Quinua is a traditional cereal plant of the Andes area, and passengers will learn about the significance of that cereal. Another new offer is the „Costa – Sierra“ train, departing from Durán on Saturdays and travelling via the Devil's Nose to Alausí. The return trip runs on Sundays. These new trains are intended to cater for those tourists who don't wish to use the expensive „Tren Crucero“, and the fare seems to be accessible for a part of ecuadorian people, too.
Operations at Ibarra have also been tightened and reduced to one loco-hauled train from Otavalo via Ibarra to Salinas and vv. Friday to Sunday. This offer now covers both legs of the journey by train as it didn't prove to be popular travelling by bus in one direction.
The following trains also keep operating:
„Tren de los Volcanes“ Quito – Machachi – El Boliche and vv. Friday to Sunday, loco-hauled
„Tren del Hielo 2“ Ambato – Urbina and vv. Friday to Sunday, railbus „Autoferro“
„Tren de los Ancestros“, now renamed „Tren del Hielo 1“ Riobamba - Colta and vv. Saturday and Sunday, with mass visit at Colta, railbus „Autoferro“.
„Tren de la Dulzura“ Durán – Bucay and vv. Thursday to Sunday, loco-hauled.
(Source: Fahrplancenter News, FEEP)
The first of 14 tramways for the new Cuenca tramway was delivered in mid-July 2015. They are being built by Alstom – the supplier of the entire system – and are of the Citadis type. Power supply of the 10,2 km long line will be underground and not via overhead lines; this in order to protect the appearance of the historic city. Test runs have started on 19 October, and the system is expected to be fully operational by mid-2016.
(Source: Tramways and Urban Transit)
Construction of the 22,5 km long metro line of Quito has been awarded to a consortium formed by Acciona and the Brazilian contractor Odebrecht. Overall cost is estimated at US$ 1,54 billion. No trains have been ordered as yet.
(Source: Tramways and Urban Transit)
The railway Ibarra – Otavalo reopened officially January 15, 2015 and from January 24 on public services may start to run.
(Source: Volta o Trem 19-1)
Ibarra – Otavalo
Reconstruction of the line Ibarra – Otavalo is now complete and during November 2014 some special train trips have been offered to local people along the line to familiarize them with the new rail traffic. Regular trains may start to run in a few weeks.
(Source: Volta o Trem 18-9)
The station of Hoja Blanca between Ibarra and Salinas has been completely refurbished so it can now be used for tourist purposes.
(Source: Volta o Trem 18-9)
Ibarra – Otavalo
Due to the lack of diesel railcars the line between Ibarra and Otavalo may be operated with the rehabilitated steam locomotive no. 18 of 1930. A second steam loco may arrive at Ibarra in 2015. Traffic to Otavalo may begin before the end of 2014.
(Source: Volta o Trem 18-8)
Lack of rolling-stock
Due to the lack of rolling-stock FEEP reduced the offer of regular train services. Durán - Yaguachi and Quito - Latacunga are currently not operating as it is the case with the railcar between Ibarra and Salinas. For the same reason opening of the Ibarra - Otavalo line was postponed.
(Source: Volta o Trem 18-7)
At the end of June 2013, the Mayor of Cuenca signed a contract to build a 10,5 km long tramway. The line will count 27 stops, and opening is expected in 2015. The order with a total value of 142,6 Mio US Dollars includes delivery of 14 low-level trams of the Alstom Citadis type. Power will be supplied by an underground cable running in between the rails and collected via a groove (same system used in Bordeaux, France). This will make Cuenca the first city in Latin America with such a system. Some preliminary works like relocation of utilities and the building of the workshops have already started and will be executed by the Tranvía Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca consortium, while French firms are in charge of track laying, electrification and delivery of rolling stock.
(Source: Railway Gazette International)
Ibarra – Otavalo
State railways FEEP informs that reconstruction of the 27 km long line between Ibarra and Otavalo is going ahead as planned and that passenger traffic may start in the second half of 2014. The investment for this line is US$14mio.
During vacational seasons FEEP is now offering free transport of bicycles between Quito and Machachi.
(Source: Volta o Trem 17-5)
Quito - Durán
The “Tren Crucero” started operations as planned at the beginning of June 2013 and the comments about it are simply overwhelming. Lonely Planet has ranked the train among the “five best railway journeys of the world”. The first round-trip passed without any problems and on schedule. The number of bookings meets the expectations of the operator.
(Source: Financial Times, Lonely Planet and other sources)
Ibarra – Salinas
A mudslide interrupted the Ibarra – Salinas line in April 2013. Contrary to the past, repair work started immediately, and only three weeks later, traffic was resumed. During 2012, more than 17'000 passengers used this service.
(Source: Gerencia Regional Norte FEEP)
Ibarra – Otavalo
he reconstruction of the Ibarra – Otavalo line is running to plan, as the local media and the railway operator FEEP report. On 96% of the 27 km long line, the original track alignment will be used and new tracks laid. The remaining 4% are partly blocked by illegal settlements. Some of the squatters were compensated with alternative space and in some occasions the line will be re-routed. Renovation and upgrade of the San Antonio, Andrade Marín, San Roque and Otavalo stations was awarded to local architects.
(Source: La Hora – Nacional)
Ibarra - Otavalo
The state railway FEEP presented plans to rebuild and reopen the 27 kilometres long line from Ibarra to Otavalo to the municipalities along the line on 9th and 10th February 2013.
Those plans are already very detailed and include refurbishment or reconstruction of the stations at Otavalo, Andrade Marín, San Roque and San Rafael as well as the partly refurbished station at Ibarra. Works will commence in the next couple of months and operations are scheduled to start in 2014.
FEEP run more and more trains for schoolchildren and underprivileged residents of the communities along the railway. These are run as special services and are very well frequented. In 2012 numerous trains operated from Durán, Quito and Riobamba, while in January 2013 services between Ibarra and Salinas were offered, followed by runs from Ambato to Cevallos the next month. The purpose of those events is to explain the importance of the railway for the communities served, familiarise young people with the railway and to help preventing vandalism.
Through traffic between Durán (Guayaquil) and Quito will start on 4th June 2013. On this date, the first “Tren Crucero” will run over the full length of 445 km in public service.
The cruise train will cover the entire line in 4 days and the passengers will have opportunities for sightseeing en route. Hotel accommodation and meals will be included in the package. The set consists of 4 carriages; it will be hauled by a diesel locomotive between Quito and Riobamba, while on the spectacular part of the line between Riombamba and Durán, the train will be steam-powered by a refurbished steam locomotive (No. 17, according to initial reports).
The train can accommodate a total of 54 passengers; it will be possible to book part-journeys of one, two or three days. Package prices therefore range from USD 236 up to USD 1270 for the entire journey. Departures from Quito are scheduled for 4th and 16th of June, 2nd, 16th and 30th of July, 13th and 27th of August, 3rd, 17th and 31st of December 2013. The return journeys from Durán will start 5 days after the mentioned dates.
Quito - Durán
Ecuadorian Railways begins to operate through trains Quito - Durán from June 2013, a 4-day rail-cruising will be available from about US$ 950 on.
(Source: Volta o Trem 16-8)
October 2012 saw the introduction of two new trains in Ecuador. Thursday to Sunday a railcar runs from Riobamba to Urbina, the heighest station of the network and also Thursday to Sunday a train runs from Riobamba to Colta on the shores of Colta Lake.
(Source: Volta o Trem 16-6)
Ferrocarriles del Ecuador
The rehabilitation of the Quito – Durán railway line is progressing rapidly. It is expected that through traffic can resume during 2013. Among other ideas, it is planned to operate a regular steam-hauled tourist train over the full length of the line.
The „Tren de la Dulzura“ will start operations at the end of 2012; it will connect Durán and Bucay.
(Source: Ferrocarriles del Ecuador)