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China agrees to back Amazon rail link

LIMA: China's official news agency Xinhua reports China, Brazil and Peru have agreed to conduct a feasibility study on building a 2,800 mile railway line connecting Peru's Pacific coast with Brazil's Atlantic coast.

Peruvian president Ollanta Humala Chinas premier Li KeqiangAnnouncing the project with Peruvian president Ollanta Humala (right of picture), China's premier Li Keqiang said the three countries want to encourage economic development along the proposed railway - which includes routing through parts of the Amazon - in order to "accelerate industrialization and urbanization in South America under the condition of environmental protection and biological diversity".

Noting China has a lot of experience in railway construction, Li reportedly said his country is willing to help build the railway in a bid to "boost interconnection in South America, promote regional economic development, and better realize mutually-beneficial and win-win results".

The announcement follows the signing last year of an MoU between China and Honduras to build a railway between the Pacific coast town of Amapala and the northern port city of Castilla while Colombian and Chinese officials continue to discuss building a rail line linking the country's Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

According to a BBC report, China says it is prepared to invest up to US$50 billion in Latin America infrastructure projects and it follows an announcement in January by Chinese president Xi Jinping who pledged US$250 billion to develop the region over the next decade.

The aim of the proposed Brazil/Peru railway – an echo of past disasters – is to reduce the cost of shipping raw materials from Brazil to Asia.

Over 100 years ago the Madeira-Mamore railway was built to transport rubber from Bolivia to the Brazilian port of Velho for export to world markets. It took five years to construct 235 miles of track through the Amazon where thousands of workers died from disease and attacks from indigenous tribes. The line opened in 1912 and a year later the price of rubber collapsed. So did the viability of what became known as the "Devil's Railway". Brazil eventually replaced the line with a road.

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