The $1.8 billion metro system has begun a trial service for passengers, before opening the full network and offering free travel from 18 April until 30 June this year.
With an operational 5 minute headway, the service has resulted in a substantial reduction in travel times for commuters. On Tuesday the 13km journey from the 5 de Mayo station, in the center of the city, to the northeasterly Andes region of the city took only 20 minutes. Prior to the metro this journey would take between one and two hours, depending on the time of day.
The project has been completed by Brazilian company Norberto Oderbrecht and the Spanish FCC Consortium.
Daniel Garcia, representative of Spanish project management company Jesa, explained that “in all of the major cities of the world, if it were not for metro lines the volume of traffic would cause a collapse”.
“Panama is a city that has been growing at a phenomenal rate in recent years, and the next requirement has been to implement infrastructure that will allow that growth to continue”, Mr. Garcia noted.
Dalma Duque, a spokesperson for the metro, explained that an additional section has been added to the original proposal, and that this will be completed by January 2015. This means the total cost for line one will rise to $2.11 billion dollars at the time of full completion.
The trial guest period will run from 12 March to 6 April, and from then until the day of current president Ricardo Martinelli’s administration, 30 June, the metro will be free for all users.
Duque explained that they aim to introduce a flat, integrated fare across the metro and metrobus network, which will operate with a prepaid smartcard system. It is expected that this fare will be less than $1 dollar.
The service will initially operate three trains with nineteen carriages each, moving around 15,000 passengers per hour in peak time. From April 18 the service will run from 5am to 10pm daily.