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During his last full day as president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos gave the official start to the pre-qualification stage of the bidding process for the first metro line of Bogotá, an event that was part of the celebrations of the capital's 480th anniversary.
This marked a key step forward for a project that has supposedly been a priority for the country for well over a decade, but has been plagued by a number of problems.
The plans for the current US$4.4bn project can be traced back to 2016, when mayor Enrique Peñalosa ruled out the possibility of an underground line due to fiscal constraints, therefore setting an elevated line as the preferred option.
This project also ended up facing a number of delays, mainly due to the debate surrounding the creation of a state-owned company to manage the future line (Metro de Bogotá); negotiations with the central government to help with construction costs and with international lenders to secure funding; debates in the city council to allow Metro de Bogotá to seek out those same loans, and even a legal challenges against Peñalosa's decision to rule out an underground line.
With the preliminary bidding documents now published in Metro de Bogota's website, interested companies and consortia will be able to participate. The contract being tendered entails not only construction, but also maintenance, partial financing and operation of the line, as well as supplying rolling stock.
When the contract was announced in April, the head of financial development institution FDN, Clemente del Valle, said that it "not only favors and makes financing more efficient by facilitating private and public financing and incorporating a mixed remuneration model, but also allows for better coordination of activities and greater process control."
STEP BY STEP
This pre-qualification stage is expected to finish before the end of the year and will be carried under the Inter-American Development Bank's (IDB) procurement rules, according to the Bogotá government.
The current process doesn't involve economic or technical proposals, but instead the certification of the technical, legal and financial requirements on behalf of the potential bidders, who will be contractually obligated to cover US$1.1bn of the project's total cost.
While Metro de Bogotá is in charge of the overall selection process, the multilaterals that have approved loans - the IDB (US$600mn in total), the World Bank (US$600mn) and the European Investment Bank (EIB, US$480mn) - can object to the resulting list of pre-qualified firms.
The bidders that make the first cut will receive the full tendering documents that include the technical specifications.
Following an observations and answers period, the bidders will submit economic bids.
The whole process is expected to take around a year, meaning the contract would be awarded by August 2019.
MORE THAN JUST THE LINE
According to the preliminary bidding documents based on the current design, the metro line traverses 20.9km from the Portal Américas station of the city's Trasmilenio bus system to the intersection of Caracas avenue and 62nd street.
An additional 3km viaduct will connect the line to a train yard located near the Bogotá river, bringing the line's total to 23.96km (see map below).
The yard, which is part of the contract, will be located on a 32ha lot and have storage space for 30 trains in its first stage, which will be later increased to 64 in the second stage that is expected for 2050.
The line will have 16 stations, with 10 of these connecting to the Transmilenio bus service. It is initially expected to move 36,000 passengers per hour, with the average increasing to 64,800 during rush hour.
In a separate contract, Bogotá is also working to expand the number of Transmilenio corridors.
Economic and social policy council Conpes has approved a total of 4.02tn pesos (US$1.3bn) in future funds to finance construction of two new corridors - Ciudad de Cali and 63rd avenue - that will become feeder lines for the metro line.
Back when the same council deemed the metro project of strategic importance last year, it cited a total of five Transmilenio bus corridors- three of them feeder lines and two complementary lines.
The Ciudad de Cali and Avenida 68 corridors are considered feeding lines, alongside a third road that would be built at the Boyacá corridor, which will fall to the government of President Iván Duque, who was sworn in on August 7.
As for the complementary corridors, which include a new one at the Carrera Séptima avenue and the extension of an existing one at Caracas avenue, both will be handled by the Bogotá city government and are expected to start works this year.