Is rail making a comeback in Central America?

By Martin Mowforth

November 2020

The article listed above this one (from March 2020) discusses recent transport initiatives in Costa Rica which included the reactivation of rail transport. In this article we briefly report on four other rail initiatives, one in Panamá, one in Nicaragua, one in El Salvador and one in Honduras.

In Panamá at the beginning of this year a new line was planned for Panamá’s modern metro system to pass by tunnel under the Panamá Canal instead of by a bridge next to the Bridge of the Americas which was originally foreseen for this link.

In February the HPH Joint Venture Consortium of Hyundai Engineering & Construction and Posco E&C was awarded a $US 2.057bn contract for the design, construction and financing of metro Line 3.

The line is to run between the west of Panamá City and the heart of the city which is east of the canal zone. The tunnel will be divided into two segments for the sake of evacuation in the event of emergencies.

In Nicaragua the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE by its Spanish initials) is considering part-financing the construction of a rail project linking the country’s main airport on the outskirts of Managua, Managua itself, Masaya and Granada. One branch would allow travellers to journey from the airport to the city of Granada without having to pass through Managua.

In discussing the project, the BCIE President Dante Mossi drew attention to the fact that Nicaragua has the best project execution in Central America, highlighting that “the Ministry of Finance has a good planning system, allowing us to make an orderly allocation of all the resources. … We have not had corruption problems in Nicaragua. … It is a country that makes the most correct use of BCIE funds.”

In El Salvador the Office of the Presidential Commission for Strategic Projects and the Autonomous Port Executive Commission (CEPA by its Spanish initials) are currently designing the terms of reference for the bidding for the conduct of pre-feasibility studies and feasibility studies for the construction of a rail line to be known as the Pacific Train.

The aim of this plan is to create efficient rail operations in El Salvador, allowing for both passenger and freight transport.

In Honduras the BCIE is to provide financial support for a feasibility study into the implementation of a freight train project to connect the Isla de Amapala in the department of Valle (in the south of the country) with Puerto Castilla and Puerto Cortés on the Atlantica coast.


  • El Economista, 13.02.20, ‘Línea 3del Metro de Panamá pasará por un túnel bajo el Canal’
  • Informe Pastrán, ‘BCIE financiará ferrocarril en Nicaragua’
  • Rosa María Pastrán, 10.03.20, ‘CEPA abre proceso para estudio de factibilidad de aeropuerto en el oriente de El Salvador’, La Prensa Gráfica, El Salvador
  • Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE / CABEI): 
  • Comisión Ejecutiva Portuaria Autónoma (CEPA):
  • ENCA Newsletter No. 78, ‘Transport Initiatives in Costa Rica’, (p.11).