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Metro de Santiago: Momentum continues to grow [free access]

September 1, 2011

The Metro de Santiago (Metro) is notably one of the most rapidly expanding metro networks in the world. In 2010, about 10 km were added, taking the total network length to over 100 km. In the coming six years, the network is targeted to be further expanded by another 35 km. As the growth drive continues, government has undertaken various environmental initiatives to emphasise sustainability and quality of life as part of its strategy.


Public transport in Santiago


Santiago is the largest city and the capital of Chile. Its public transport system, Transantiago, comprises a bus rapid transit (BRT), feeder bus lines and the Metro. Prior to Transantiago, the city’s public transport system was highly disorganised and comprising a fully-privatised bus service operated by about 3,000 operators using a fleet of 8,000 converted trucks with a bus chassis. Commuter resentment against the public transport system was rife, and in 2003, a survey showed that the bus system was voted as the city’s worst public service.


Consequently, the Government of Chile intervened to overhaul the city’s public transport system through an integration of the Metro and the private bus system, based on a trunk-and-feeder model, modern bus fleet, integrated fares and high-tech centralised control system. An entirely new transport industry structure was conceptualised and franchised through an international bid for tenders, with operating contracts awarded to ten national and international firms. The new integrated public transport system commenced operations on February 10, 2007.


Project details and progress


Inaugurated in 1975, the Metro is the second largest metro network in Latin America, after Mexico City’s metro system. It represents about 40 per cent of the journeys made on public transport, with an average of about 2.3 million passengers on a typical weekday. The metro is administered by state-owned Metro S.A. France-based engineering firm Systra, in partnership with Chile-based engineering firm CADE-IDEPE (acquired by UK-based engineering firm AMEC in 2007) have been main contractors on the project.


Currently, the Metro operates five lines aggregating over 100 km with 105 stations. Lines 1, 2, and 5 rely on rubber-tyred vehicle system on a concrete running beam, and lines 4 and 4A use standard steel wheels. The metro system uses pneumatic technology, which is particularly suited to this seismic area. Line 5, which runs overground, works on the U-shaped viaduct design developed by Systra.


The network details are presented in Figure 1 and Table 1.  


Figure 1:  Metro de Santiago’s existing network


Source: Global Mass Transit Research


Table 1: Routes operated by Metro de Santiago



Length (km)

Station (number)

Share of traffic as of 2010 (%)

Line 1

San Pablo and Los Dominicos




Line 2

Conchalí and San Miguel




Line 4

Tobalaba (Providencia) and Puente Alto




Line 4A

Vicuña Mackenna and La Cisterna




Line 5

Maipú and La Florida









Source: Metro de Santiago and Global Mass Transit Research


Operational performance


From 2006 (when all five lines of the Metro became operational) to 2010, the number of passengers increased at a CAGR of 17 per cent. In 2010, the passenger trips were 621 million compared to 331 million five years back. Maximum growth in passenger traffic was witnessed in 2007, which could be attributed to the launch of Transantiago.  The uncertainty about bus frequencies and routes led many commuters, who normally used surface transport, to opt for the metro. Consequently, the number of daily metro users doubled, from 1.2 million to 2.3 million per day, in a very short period of time. Figure 2 illustrates the growth in passenger traffic during 2006-10.


Figure 2: Growth of Metro passenger traffic (2006-10)


Source: Metro de Santiago and Global Mass Transit Research


Metro’s fleet size has also increased to 967 cars in 2010, against 751 cars in 2008. In 2011, Spain-based railway engineering company Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) sold 12 trains to Chile’s Santiago metro for EUR102.8 million. This follows an order of 20 trains it delivered in 2007.


Line 1 carries the maximum passenger traffic since it operates within downtown Santiago. The other lines connect downtown to the suburbs. As of 2010, Line 1 carried 42 per cent of the total traffic, and lines 2, 4, 4A, and 5, 20 per cent, 19 per cent, 16.8 per cent and 3.1 per cent. Figure 3 shows the trends in line-wise passenger traffic during 2007-10.


Figure 3: Line-wise breakup of Metro’s total passenger traffic (2007-2010) (million)


Source: Metro de Santiago and Global Mass Transit Research


Non-fare revenue sources


Besides its passenger operations, the Metro earns a significant portion of its revenue from other sources such as rentals from retail spaces, advertisements and real-estate development charges. In 2010, non-fare revenues accounted for 15 per cent of the total revenue, compared to 12 per cent in 2006. Figure 4 highlights the contribution of different segments in Metro’s total revenue in 2010.


Figure 4: Distribution of Metro’s total revenue in 2010 (%)


Source: Global Mass Transit Research


Environmental initiatives


As Santiago rapidly expands its metro network, it is undertaking measures to be environmentally friendly in its growth. These include four energy-efficiency projects that will help save about 35 GWh/ year. One of the important projects is the BiciMetro programme, which provides bike lockers at select Santiago metro stations and has over 2,700 registered users. This project is designed to integrate non-polluting, energy-efficient modes of transport with the promotion of bicycle use to decrease overall pollution and improve the quality of life in Santiago. The project, which began with lockers at four stations, now has twice the number of lockers serving eight areas – Las Condes, La Cisterna, Recoleta, Puente Alto, Providencia, Peñalolén, Quinta Normal and Pudahuel, with plans to add more locations in future.


Recent developments


Over the last few months, the Metro has awarded a few key contracts. In August 2011, it awarded a USD144 million order to Spain-based railway engineering company CAF to supply 12 nine-car train-sets for use on Lines 1, 2 and 5. The rubber-tyred, air-conditioned trains will be equipped with communication-based train control (CBTC) systems. The new rolling stock is to be delivered in 2012-13.


Earlier in July 2011, the Metro awarded a three-year maintenance contract to UK-based Balfour Beatty Rail to provide 24-hour, seven days a week cover. The contract comes with an option to renew for an additional two years.


Future plans


Plans are underway to construct Lines 3 and 6 in 2012. Metro issued a tender for project management and technical assistance on June 13, 2011. Bids have been received, and are currently under evaluation. Line 3 is planned to be 21.2 km long with 18 stations, operating from Américo Vespucio in the northwest to Tobalaba. It will intersect existing Lines 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6. The first section from stations Cal y Canto to Pedro de Valdivia is expected to begin operations in 2017 and the full route in 2018. Line 6 is planned to be 15.4 km long with 10 stations linking Pedro Aguirre Cerda in Cerrillos to Vitacura. It is scheduled to run south of and parallel to the existing Line 1 and connect with four routes on the existing system.


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