Japan to build $2 billion monorail across Panama Canal

Central America’s first monorail project attracts Hitachi and Mitsubishi interest

Financing for Panama Canal monorail will come from government-backed Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Photograph: AFP.

Financing for Panama Canal monorail will come from government-backed Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Photograph: AFP.

 

Japan and Panama will sign a memorandum of understanding on Thursday to use Japanese technology for an estimated $2 billion monorail that would span the Central American nation’s trans-oceanic canal and ease traffic congestion.

The pact includes financing via the government-backed Japan Bank for International Cooperation, though lending terms haven’t yet been set, Luis Miguel Hincapie, Panama’s vice minister of foreign affairs, said on Thursday in an interview in Tokyo.

The project, which could start as early as this year and be completed by 2022, would be the largest Japan-sourced infrastructure investment in Panama’s history.

The 27-kilometer project, Central America’s first monorail, can help expand business ties with Japan, part of a broader goal to draw more investment to Panama, Hincapie said.

Japanese industrial group Hitachi is “highly interested” in the project and participated in a feasibility study, said spokesman Kazuki Fujiwara.

Mitsubishi is also considering vying for the business, said spokesman Koichi Funabashi.

“This is the start of a new era of cooperation with Japan, and is very important for Panama,” Hincapie said.

Panamanian president Juan Carlos Verela plans to visit Japan in April to sign a final agreement on the monorail project.

The new line would transport commuters from the suburbs of Panama City to the city centre in 45 minutes, a trip that now can take three hours by car because of traffic jams.

- Bloomberg

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