Railways in Chile

Chilean rail transport is operated entirely by Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado (EFE) through subsidiaries. Since creation in 1884, the company expanded to its present monopolistic state.

Oddly, Chilean rail gauges are not standardized within the country, although the gauges have been segregated in the north and south of the country.

Rail lines in the southern half of the country use broad gauge which is a gauge only common in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Argentina and Chile. “Metre” gauge used in northern Chile is only active to a large scale in Switzerland and northern Spain.

Neither “broad” nor “narrow” gauges come close to sharing the popularity of “standard” gauge. In terms of installed lines, the track gauges used in Chile account for just over 170k miles of track worldwide which is just over half a million miles less than “standard” gauge used by most of the world (“standard” gauge is used exclusevely to connect Arica, Chile to Tacna, Peru in the north).

Additionally, Chilean rail is not entirely connected from north to south, and not even Santiago is connected to Valparaiso (two of the countries largest cities) by passenger rail lines. While lines could take Chileans from the southern region of Chile to the north at the height of rail’s importance in the country, the industry has suffered as a result of competition from air, bus, and truck transportation.

Regardless, present day lines run as far as Puerto Montt which is considered a gateway city to Chiloé Archipelago Western Patagonia. Lines running south are even electrified from Santiago to Temuco.

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