Argentina revamps rail transport with China's help

Updated 2017-04-13 15:00:54 Xinhua

Argentina has embarked on an ambitious plan to upgrade its dilapidated rail transport, taking China as a key partner providing both technology and manpower.

Xinhua toured workshops serving the network's central Roca Line, in Llavallol, a town located 33 km south of the capital Buenos Aires, where technicians from China's CRRC Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co., Ltd. are working side by side with their Argentinian counterparts on the binational undertaking.

The technicians arrive daily by special transport to carry out maintenance work on trains that the Argentine government has purchased to completely revamp the network's Roca, Sarmiento and Mitre lines.

The China-made trains are quieter than their precursors, some of which date from the 1970s, and are more energy efficient, even though passenger cars are air conditioned.

The modern cars also have special features for commuters with disabilities, and are installed with security cameras and a safety system that prevents the train from moving while doors are open.

Yang Haijun, who has worked in Argentina for the past three years as a CRRC administrator and head technician, said he took an instant liking to the locals.

"With just a 'hello,' I sensed their friendship and enthusiasm," Yang told Xinhua.

They are also quick to learn, he said.

"Argentinians are very studious. At the beginning, we offered the country technological and operational services as the Argentinians did not know how to handle the trains well. But after receiving our training, which lasted for two years, they have mastered the technology," said Yang.

Fabian Malvillini, general coordinator of Engineering Management at the state-run rail operator SOFSE, the agency responsible for running and maintaining the lines, has 30 years of experience in rail transit.

The upgrade has been notable, he said, especially in terms of bolstering safety features.

"For us, it means a very significant technological change, mainly in terms of security. It is a very good product and we are very pleased to be able to work with the engineering staff (from China), who are very good people and very professional," said Malvillini.

The modernization of the rail is also making maintenance work easier, he said.

"The technological changes have really simplified maintenance, because the systems, such as traction and alternate currents, require maintenance that is much faster and simpler," said Malvillini.

On the other hand, the trains' high-tech aspects are proving more challenging.

"In contrast, we do have to train a lot in computing. Many of the systems are computerized, so we have to train people, and they (the Chinese technicians) help us with that," Malvillini said.

"Personally, I have learned a lot from the traction system, which is different, new and novel in the metropolitan network, and the knowledge they transmit to us on a day to day basis," he added.

The Roca Line is the most heavily used within the metropolitan rail network, which serves the capital and surrounding communities.

Figures from the national transport commission (CNRT) show 329.5 million commuters used the system's seven lines in 2015, with Roca transporting 128.7 million.

The decision to modernize the system followed a tragic accident in February 2012 that left 51 passengers dead and another 789 injured, after a train on the Sarmiento Line failed to break as it entered the Once Station.

After the third worst rail accident in the country's history, then President Cristina Fernandez (2007-2015) decided to partner with China to improve the capital's transit system, a partnership that continues under her successor Mauricio Macri.

The two countries are also working together to modernize Argentina's cargo rail network.

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