(Photo: sonofgroucho.) At the beginning of August, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and his colleagues from Argentina and Brazil spoke about Latin American integration and Chavez threw an ambitious idea out: a train that would connect Venezuela's capital (Caracas) with Argentina's (Buenos Aires), and cities in between.
Even though he admitted this was an utopia, now the idea could be more than a dream. According to BBC Mundo, last week the Venezuelan government published a press release that mentioned, "the beginning of activities to achieve the Southern train." The release referred to a reunion between specialists from Venezuela and Argentina, who shared ideas about how to pull off the connection between South America's extremes.
More in the extended. Via BBC Mundo.South American train project details
BBC Mundo informs the representatives that gathered in this reunion recognized there are many difficulties, but some were hopeful about the project. "We're sure this is going to become a reality sooner than later, and that this is going to unite Latin America," said Michel Douaihy, president of the Venezuelan Train Institute.
The train would cover 6,200 kilometers (3,852 miles) from Mar del Plata (on the coast of Buenos Aires) to the Caribbean. Now there are 2,400 operational kilometers of railways (1,491 miles) that go from Buenos Aires to Santa Cruz in Bolivia, which would be the initial segment of the project.
From there on, there are two options: to go directly to the south of Venezuela through Amazon territory, or to follow the eastern slope of Los Andes mountains until Venezuelan land.
The first is the shortest and could include social benefits for the communities it goes through, but involves a strongest ecological impact. The Andean way could be useful for communities that are more established, but its construction would be more expensive because it would go through mountain areas.
Utopia or reality?
The specialists who gathered in Caracas agreed that between governmental coordination and preliminary studies, the project could take shape in three or four years. Only then it would be visible if this could be a reality and the task of finding financial resources would begin.
If done responsibly and with proper environmental care, we have to say a train this characteristics sounds exciting for South America. With distances so large and almost no good train services inside the countries, these days flying is almost the only way to travel through the continent. And of course, we've discussed before why trains are greener than planes.
Now it's a matter of time to find out if this is just another wacky idea that sees no future or a truly interesting integration project between South American countries.
Has the Southern Train departed? - BBC Mundo (in Spanish)
Argentina starts conversation with Venezuela about Southern Train - Empresas news (in Spanish)