2023 Chile Infrastructure – Tender Outlook
Chile has been very successful over the years with its public-private concessions system which helped improve infrastructure across the country. The countries competitive ranking increased dramatically during the 2000’s as highways, roads, and ports were upgraded.
The country has been particularly busy the last few years with new tenders that renewed original concession contracts that reached their expiration dates and for the execution of new works. The Chilean Construction Chamber, CChC, reports that the ministry of public works allocated US$3 billion in 2021, an increase of 39% compared to 2020.
For 2022, the former President, Piñera, left office with a plan that involved tendering 12 contracts with total investments of US$4.2 billion. Unfortunately, since the new president took office in March 2022, the government did not launch any new tenders, only opening bids for contracts that were already auctioned by the previous administration. This should change in 2023.
2023 Concessions Agenda
The Chilean government has set a goal to launch tenders for 13 concession contracts that have a collective value of US$3.9bn. Concessions will include mobility projects such as cable cars and light rails, alongside highways and airports.
Some of the highlights include –
- US$587mn Antofagasta-Caldera Route 5 – The contract entails the operation and widening of 470km of the country’s main north-south axis, between Antofagasta city and Caldera.
- US$470mn Valdivia Access Network– The contract entails the operation and improvement of routes 202 (44km) and 206 (43km), which are the main accesses of Valdivia city in Los Ríos region.
- US$490mn Temuco-Río Bueno Route 5 – The contract covers the operation and improvement of 172km between both cities in Araucanía region and Los Ríos.
- US$430mn Concepción North Access – The contract includes the operation of a 75km access of the capital of Biobío region, plus 14km of branch roads.
- US$323mn Pie de Monte Route – The contract includes the construction and operation of an alternative road to the current Ruta 160, in the section between the municipalities of San Pedro de la Paz and Coronel in the South of Chile.
- US$376mn Iquique-Antofagasta Route 5 – The contract include expanding the Route 5 highway between the cities of Antofagasta and Iquique into a four-lane highway. A project that is highly needed given the number of trucks currently using the highway.
Rail is a major focus and is one of the more exciting parts of Chile’s infrastructure agenda. In September 2019, President Sebastián Piñera announced the US$5 billion “Chile on Rails” program, which is destined to be the countries largest ever railway investment. The program consists of 25 projects and over 1,000 kilometers of railways that will triple the number of users to 150 million by 2027 and double cargo capacity to 21 million tons.
- US$1.5bn Santiago-Melipilla Rail Project – The project calls for the development of commuter and cargo rail lines between Santiago and the Melipilla’s district. There is a possibility of extending the cargo line to the port city of San Antonio. The new line will reduce travel time between Santiago and Melipilla to an estimated 45min with trains expected to travel at speeds up to 120km/h. The line is forecasted to move 31mn passengers/y. For 2023, seven civil works and rail line contracts will be awarded. Some of the works are already underway, including new bridges and underpasses, as well as several stations.
- US$705mn Santiago-Batuco Rail Link – The project include the construction of a 27km rail line that will run north from the capital and include eight stations to Batuco. Part of the line will be underground involving building a tunnel at a depth of 27m. The project could help turn the western sector of Santiago into a commercial hub, serving an estimated 35mn passengers a year and decreasing travel times to 20 minutes.
- US$398mn Airport Light Rail – The project includes the construction of a 12km light rail to connect the international airport with Santiago. The initiative will connect the Santiago subway system with the airport.
- US$313mn La Serena-Coquimbo Light Rail – The project involves providing a railway service between the cities of Coquimbo and La Serena, making use of existing infrastructure. Work involves the rehabilitation and upgrade of the existing line. In addition, the train would provide services 24 hours a day and fares would be similar to that charged by existing public transport providers.
- US$78mn Valparaiso Cable Car – The project calls for building a cable car public transport system with capacity for 3,000 passengers in each direction per hour. It is expected to improve connectivity in Valparaíso with the majority residents located in the hills above the city.
- US$197mn Extension to line No. 6 – The project consists of extending the Line 6 another 2.6km which was recently opened in 2017. The goal is to connect with the future Santiago-Melipilla rail service that is to be built.
Chile has a healthy infrastructure pipeline that will provide opportunity for foreign investors and companies. Beyond tendering as a concessionaire, there are opportunities for engineering services, construction, services, products, and anything else that would be required for large infrastructure projects.
Although 2022 was a slow a year for new tenders, it may have been a positive development since inflation in materials over the last 12 months has become an issue for the construction industry in general.
There are also challenges related to environmental approvals, land acquisitions, community opposition which are delaying the project timelines. There is a large group of citizens and truckers who are against more toll roads, which they say are too expensive for the average citizen.
The government will need to reevaluate future tenders to see if there are ways to lower the costs for users. Some ideas include which extending the payback periods for the investments over a longer time frame or evaluating how increases to tolls would be administrated.
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