2.4 Ecuador Railway Assessment


Railways have limited reach and are mainly operated for tourism purposes. 965 km (600 mi) long railways (all of them narrow gauge) are present in the country. In 2020 The Ecuadorian government announced plans to put Ecuador Railways into liquidation. The decision is intended to substantially reduce expenditures at a time when government income, especially from oil revenues, has been severely reduced. The assets of the company Ferrocarriles del Ecuador, which is in the process of being liquidated, will be transferred to the Ministry of Transport and Public Works (MTOP) The liquidation is due to the fact that the public company was not profitable, since between 2012 and September 2020 it recorded losses of USD 144 million, especially in tourism promotion. The MTOP takes over the administration of the railways, trains, locomotives, wagons and intangibles such as trademarks, intellectual property rights, registrations, patents, rolling stock, equipment and machinery, tools, useful spare parts, stocks, appliances, among others, maintained by the company Ferrocarriles del Ecuador.

According to records prior to the announcement of the definitive closure, the public company had 10 electro-diesel locomotives; 7 steam locomotives; 7 autoferros; 36 modern, air-conditioned and wooden cars; 3 power vans, 4 workshops and 459 kilometers of tracks. The railway line consists of 965 kilometers. But of these, only 506 kilometers are rehabilitated. The rest, more than 454 kilometers, is without maintenance because it was considered that several sections of the railway line would not be profitable, such as the Ibarra-San Lorenzo route.

A brief history

By the 1990's, transporting people and goods was easier via the new roads which crossed all of Ecuador. Trucks and buses regularly shuttled between Quito, Guayaquil and the other main cities, carrying passengers and cargo. The train was not popular any more, and few people used it. Sections of track broke down and were not repaired. Engines wore out and were not replaced. Stations and coaches fell into ruin. On the outskirts of cities, people began building over the train tracks. Eventually the only sections left open were those popular with foreign tourists, such as the Quito-Cotopaxi run and the Devil's Nose.

Ecuador Railways Public Company (Feep) was established in 2010 to take over the assets and operation of the previous state-owned rail company EFE, which had barely operated any services following substantial El Niño weather damage to the network in 1996-97.

The 965km 1067mm-gauge rail network was substantially modernized between 2010 and 2015 with 507km completely renewed and rebuilt at a cost of around USD 385,000,000.- * . However, lack of maintenance and damage caused by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions meant only 380km was operational in 2019 with 127km having been effectively shut in 2018.

National monument

In 2008 the national railway network was declared a national monument with legal protection. The law establishing Feep in 2010 specifically requires the infrastructure and rolling stock to be legally protected and not sold in the event the company is liquidated.

Source: (Iain Scotchman)

Feep’s locomotive fleet includes GEC-Alsthom AD24 diesel locomotives built in 1992. Here the Tren Crucero is seen at Latacunga.

(*) An accurate amount of investment is difficult to determine.  USD 340,000,0000 according to:   USD 385’000,000.- according to    US$ 386,8m according to    USD 400’000,000.- according to Deloitte & Touche documents  for the Comptroller General of the Republic. Etc.


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