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France’s SNCF Deal to Revitalize the Cuban Railway

Photo courtesy of SNCF France

A recent investment involving France’s SNCF with the Railways Union of Cuba (UFC) in a railway project development to revitalize workshops at Camagüey and Luyanó could prove vital to the overall rehabilitation of the island nation’s transportation infrastructure, according to comments made by the SNCF president Dominique Vastel.

Representatives from the SNFC and the UFC have created a financial framework that provides for an infusion of €40 million worth of much-needed capital.  The original agreement was signed on March 16 in Havana.

During a recent tour of workshops located in the French city of Longueau, Vastel stated that the Camagüey will receive upgrades in order to maintain Chinese-built locomotives while technicians in Luyanó will focus on passenger car repairs.

Approximately €30 million will come from the French Development Agency (AFD), which will be supplemented with cash from the UFC’s own development fund as a result of renegotiating Cuban debt with authorities in France.

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AFD representatives validated the initial loan back in June according to Vastel, who also explained that the money will be used to create services built around French railway equipment as well as bring in managers from the SNFC to oversee operations in Cuba.

He also mentioned that this management included training programs on both sides of the Atlantic that will help provide experience for personnel who haven’t worked with this kind of equipment in the past.

Maintenance techniques, business planning, and scheduling will all be covered by training programs in addition to engineering details.

The “French train” service between Havana and Santiago is currently using equipment that needs a series of structural repairs in order to ensure integrity on top of upgrades to provide basic creature comforts. Vastel noted that technicians will make new parts for these pieces of train equipment if they can’t find any existing replacements.

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He went on to note that the country has potential when it comes to modernizing their mass transit systems, but Cuban engineers are suffering because they’re locked into using obsolete hardware in their repair shops.

Vastel said that the two facilities being looked at were selected for specific reasons. It seems like technicians might have to make changes to the buildings themselves so that they can fit larger cranes and other tools that will be needed to work with newer pieces of rolling stock.

Even though the two parties haven’t signed off on all parts of the financial agreement yet, studies are currently underway that will provide a complete list of what resources will have to get allocated in order for work to begin.

The SNCF deal with Cuba places the company at the forefront in the region.  “Cuba is a country that counts in Latin America, where it has links with many other countries, says Dominique Vastel. A reference in this country can help promote the SNCF Group and strengthen synergies with our companies in this region of the world, including Systra, Colombia, Panama and Venezuela.”

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