With Cuba’s Transport Crisis There Will be More Railbuses for Remote Areas of Holguin

The railbuses have been used to transport passengers to remote communities on the island. (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 August 2023 — The Transport Company announced this Thursday an “expansion” of the railbus service in Holguín with the incorporation of more units that are in the “adjustment process.” Wilmer García Ramírez, director of the state company, told the Cuban News Agency (ACN) that these vehicles currently cover 20 routes with complex topography and where there is no transport coverage.

At the moment, the company operates 13 Diana and Yutong buses converted into railbuses. Soon, García Ramírez added, without committing to a date, the service will grow with the incorporation of five vehicles, of which four are in the process of adaptation in the workshops of Santiago de Cuba and one more in Guatemala, in the municipality of Mayarí. Once they are in good condition, they will be used for sections of the public transport system that are still not covered.

Also known as carahatas, seven units cover 14 Holguin municipalities, among which are Rafael Freyre, Cueto, Mayarí, Frank País, Báguano and Cacocum. García Ramírez highlighted that the case of Frank País was one of the most difficult routes put into operation, due to the narrowness of the roads between the towns of Camaronera and Cebolla Seis.

García Ramírez assured that work is being done on the design of trailers to increase the capacity to move merchandise, particularly for the rationed basic basket items intended for residents of isolated communities and agricultural products.

Railbuses are basically buses modified to include, instead of the common suspension system in a vehicle, the part of the train that allows it to run on the rails. They began to be implemented to alleviate transport difficulties on the Island due to both the shortage of units in optimal circulation conditions and the availability of fuel, although ACN describes it as a “modernization” of the railways.

The transport panorama is bleak in Cuba: on the one hand, only 50% of the passenger transport infrastructure works due to lack of maintenance and the age of the equipment, while the railway system left behind its best years and currently it only operates with an obsolete infrastructure.

Last February, the Cuban Railway Union (UFC) explained that it can only use 25 of the 81 Chinese locomotives. The rest are out of service due to lack of maintenance and, according to government forecasts, their repair will require four years due to the characteristics of the technology.

Despite successive reform announcements, the railway system remains without significant changes. This responds, in part, to the fact that the large investments by Russia and China have not been completed. Moscow suspended its support at the end of 2020 alleging an accumulation of non-compliance by the Cuban side, while in October 2022 the UFC signed an agreement with the Chinese Beijing Fanglian Technology for the recovery of the infrastructure.


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