MOTORING TOWARD DEVELOPMENT

Colombia 2016 | INFRASTRUCTURE & CONSTRUCTION | FOCUS: 4G GENERATION

Colombia is looking toward the future and improving its transportation network by renewing road infrastructure, putting an end to the nation's underdevelopment in roads and highways. The government estimates that in the next four years the 4G program will dramatically enhance the Colombian economy, shortening traveling time between cities and, consequently, reducing transportation costs.

In order to overcome and eradicate geographical underdevelopment, the government announced the most ambitious infrastructure plan in the history of the country, investing COP50 trillion in 40 different projects. The 4G Highways project aims to rehabilitate, refurbish, and construct around 7,000km of roads, of which 1,400km are dual carriageways. The plan also includes the construction of 141 tunnels and 1,300 viaducts to overcome the Colombian topography.

The former Minister of Transport, Natalia Abello, stated in an interview with TBY that the 4G highways will be the “largest contributor" to the Intermodal Transportation Master Plan 2015-2035 (PMTCT), which aims to dramatically improve infrastructure as a means of supporting regional development and international trade. “We want to promote the development of a transport system based on what we call intelligent infrastructure, where we not only build roads, but also create an efficient logistics chain through intermodal connectivity," explained Abello, who was Minister of Transport between August 2014 and April 2016.

The 4G roads will revolutionize the Colombian economy, boosting connectivity between the main cities, industrial hubs, and ports. The ministry estimates that the average traveling time will be reduced by 30%, and transport costs will drop by 20%.

The President of the Colombia's National Infrastructure Agency (ANI), Luis Fernando Andrade, explained to the XII Infrastructure National Congress in November 2015 the importance of the PPPs and concessions to develop the entirety of the 4G plan. “One of the key points to the success of this program was the international promotion that allowed attracting investors, funding agencies, and leading construction companies on the world stage infrastructure," said Andrade.

One of these companies is Hidalgo e Hidalgo. The company entered the country nearly five years ago and has since won five tenders to build roads. “These tenders are related to the program Vias para la Equidad, a public initiative whose goal is to build new roads in remote areas," said the CEO of Hidalgo e Hidalgo in Colombia, Sergio Paguay, in an interview with TBY. Paguay pointed out that they decided to invest in Colombia because it has the most ambitious infrastructure plan in Latin America and his company was one of the most experienced in road construction in Peru.

The construction of these roads is expected to generate 400,000 direct and indirect new jobs. The infrastructure program is expected to boost the economy of Colombia's rural areas as well as the industrial sector. According to the Ministry of Transport, the program will add 1.5% growth in GDP every year whilst the roads are being built.

The government has already invested COP24 trillion in the first and second phase of the program, which has four stages, and expects that most of the roads will be finished before 2020. The Executive President of the Colombian Chamber of Infrastructure (CCI), Juan Martin Caicedo, pointed out to TBY that by 2020 Colombia will have a modern and service-orientated road system. “The construction of hundreds of viaducts and tunnels will change the experience of traveling by road, and will increase the country's competitiveness dramatically," emphasized Caicedo.