Peru: Transport in Lima
Anyone who has ever lived in or visited Lima is well aware of the city’s serious traffic problems. The traffic congestion is not only a nuisance for commuters – it also hampers productivity and poses serious health risks. By some estimates, traffic congestion costs $1bn annually in forgone output and pollution-related health problems. In an effort to reverse this trend, the office of Lima’s mayor, Susana Villarán, and private sector interests are engaged in a wide array of projects aimed at freeing up traffic flow.
Villarán has announced plans to expand the city’s new rapid bus transport system – the Metropolitano. Launched in 2010, the Metropolitano operates city-owned buses along designated highway corridors. As part of these expansion efforts Villarán hopes to develop more routes, as well as better connections between the Metropolitano and the city’s electric train line, the Tren Eléctrico. The first of these connections is scheduled to begin operations at the end of August and will connect the north of the city to Villa El Salvador in the south.
The Tren Eléctrico will also be expanding. In November, the first of 19 new trains produced by French company Alstom Transport will arrive. The second train is scheduled to arrive in December, followed by two more every month until the order is filled. Fernando Deustua, the general manager of institutional relations for the Lima Metro, told local press that the trains represent an investment of $280m.
Of this total, $25m will go towards the construction of a new train maintenance workshop, which is already under way. If all goes according to plan, the Tren Eléctrico should have 16 trains in operation by 2013. This will dramatically reduce commuters’ wait time, from the current 15 minutes to six.
There are also plans to develop three additional lines to complement Tren Eléctrico Line 1, which is the only line in operation at the moment. In February 2012, President Ollanta Humala announced that ProInversión, the government agency in charge of promoting investment in Peru, would be conducting studies to concession the second line. Once completed, Line 2 will connect Ate Vitarte and Callao.
As Lima’s leadership works to expand access to public transport throughout the city, another trend that could worsen rather than alleviate traffic problems is beginning to take root. As incomes rise, more and more Peruvians are purchasing their first automobiles. The Association of Peruvian Car Dealerships recently reported that new car sales were up 36% year-on-year in Peru in May 2012. Ricardo Arrarte of Tráfico Lima, a citizen’s group that works to reduce traffic accidents and environmental damage due to traffic, told OBG that this trend “will surely aggravate Lima’s traffic problems even further”.
Lima’s best hope for increasing its capacity to deal with even larger traffic flows may be the Vía Parque Rímac project, which consists of a wide array of measures aimed at improving the city’s highway infrastructure while reducing environmental pollution linked with traffic flows. Included in the project is the construction of 11 new viaducts, 9 km of roadways and a 2-km tunnel below the Rímac River. A 4-km-long park will also be developed along the banks of the Rímac.
Vía Parque Rímac is being managed by LAMSAC, a Peruvian company supported by Brazil’s INVEPAR group, while Brazilian firm OAS is in charge of construction. LAMSAC estimates that upon completion, the Vía Parque Rímac project could save Lima up to $37m annually in reduced transit times and money spent on fuel.
In addition, the project will reduce travel time to and from the Port of Callao. This could lead to greater export levels – an additional economic benefit for Lima and the country as a whole.
Despite the many ambitious plans to develop Lima’s highway and public transport network, for the time being commuters will have to continue to fight their way through the traffic. Large-scale infrastructure projects like the expansion of the Tren Eléctrico are often many years in the works. The first line of Lima’s Tren Eléctrico, for example, took more than 25 years to build, including delays related to financial and political issues. Though there will be no quick solutions, if Lima hopes to remain competitive with other South American business centres like Santiago or São Paulo, improving the transport network must remain a top priority.