The first Chinese manufactured train made its departure from Havana on Saturday to begin its 516 mile journey to Guantanamo. It is the symbolic beginning of Cuba’s brand new railway system.
A locomotive pulling the 14 brand new Chinese passenger cars will stop at nine cities on the 15 hour voyage.
Prior to this, the journey could last for days because of intermittent track problems and engine breakdowns.
There are four air-conditioned passenger cars and a restaurant car.
The maiden voyage is symbolic of Cuba’s project to upgrade the railway system by repairing 2,600 miles of track and renovating its many train stations. The plan actually began three years ago with the announcement by Enrique Valdes, director of the Eastern-Central Railroad Company (FFCC) (Ferrocarriles de Cuba) there will be a $40 million upgrade to the computerization of the system.
Cuba’s original railway infrastructure was constructed by the Spanish in 1837 to transport sugarcane from the plantations to the coastal ports. It was the first train system in Latin America and the seventh nation in the world to have its own infrastructure. At that time, even Spain did not have its own railways.
The Russians signed an agreement in June with the Cubans to upgrade the Island’s railway system. Tass News Agency reported that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said the project is valued at “slightly less than $1 billion.”
In the past, friendly nations including China, Canada, Spain, and Venezuela have provided Cuba with new trains, second hand trains, improvements and maintenance to its railway infrastructure.
According to the publication Cubadebate, Cuba received 80 Chinese made passenger cars in May and will receive 80 more in 2020.
Eduardo Hernandez, head of the National Railway Co of Cuba said “This is the first step of the transformation of the Cuban railway system.”
According to official statistics, 6.1 million passengers rode the Cuban trains in 2018, a decrease from 10 million passengers in 2013.
From our staff writers and editors.