Although work occurring throughout the city is noticeable to anyone visiting the Colombian capital, the Bogotá metro is so far a long story about something that only exists in the imagination.
A construction site for the Bogota Metro on Calle 72 and Avenida Caracas. (Photo credit: Jared Wade)
Now, there is a new chapter in this story after Chinese ambassador to Colombia, Zhu Jingyang, set off another controversy by objecting to criticism of the Chinese companies involved in the construction.
Posting on the social network X, the ambassador said: “Companies do wonderful works in China, but they are victims of unfair criticism in Colombia for their ‘inefficiency’ or ‘inability to perform the works”. Why is there so much difference, where are the real problems?”
The company overseeing the project, Metro de Bogotá, responded, also on X: “Mr. Ambassador, @zhu_jingyang, we ask ourselves the same questions.”
This being the Bogotá metro saga, the conversation didn’t end there.
A letter signed by the head of Metro de Bogotá, Leónidas Narváez, and addressed to the Chinese consortium building the first line of the Bogotá subway, was then published.
It included the following statement: “In the framework of the monitoring carried out by Empresa Metro de Bogotá, as well as by the Comptroller’s Office and the OGP to the development of the PLMB project (First Line of the Bogotá Metro), there is evidence of deviations with respect to the program and inefficiencies in the management of the concessionaire that may result in a situation of risk in obtaining the results of the project … in the fulfillment of the goals and objectives … in the fulfillment of the obligations, in the terms and conditions contemplated in the concession contract, without evidence of due diligence on the part of ML1 (Chinese Consortium) to ensure that the project remains in compliance with the Execution Plan in its version 11 in force to date.”
Still, that was not all.
Narváez requested a change in the project’s management, asking for a general manager with experience in metro-rail projects who speaks Spanish and has leadership to make decisions.
Narvaez added that corrective measures and actions have not been taken to meet the milestones agreed to in the contract.
Metro Line 1, which is comprised of the Chinese consortium, responded to Narvaez’s letter, stating that they remain committed “to the task of solving the inconveniences and difficulties that can arise in a project of this size and complexity.”
They also gave a reassuring statement saying that they have “highly qualified and experienced engineers and professionals in project management, who have established branches in more than 90 countries around the world, doing business in more than 100 countries and regions, including the execution of infrastructure projects, including more than 80 railway projects of metros and high-speed trains in different cities around the world.”
In terms of upcoming plans to address any challenges, the ML1 consortium said that it is investing in technology and increasing certain heavy machinery usage increase the performance and speed of construction.
“We are awaiting the arrival of two more pile drivers, which will support the work of the four pile drivers that are already in operation,” said the consortium.
They also plan to use of imported robots, according to the consortium the welding times will be two and a half times faster than the traditional processes currently executed.
In a press conference, Narvaez justified sending the letter. “It is an obligation of Empresa Metro to make preventive alerts,” he said.
In the eyes of many, these recent spats only serve to further prolong construction that continues to affect the city’s economy, commerce, and the quality of life of those around the construction sites.
The Colombian Society of Engineers also weighed in to again question the viability of the elevated subway, but newly elected Mayor Carlos Fernando Galán said that the elevated system will be maintained, regardless of the conclusions of the study conducted by the Colombian Society of Engineers (SCI) on its viability of being a subway or not.
“We have said on several occasions that modifying the object of the contract has very important legal and financial implications,” said Narváez. “The mandate that the mayor has, and that he has expressed when he invited me to continue with this responsibility, is to execute the first line of the subway as it was contracted.”