Jan 18, 2016 09:30 PM EST
Japan and Panama have agreed to start a monorail project worth around $2 billion. The nations' leaders met in Japan to sign a memorandum of understanding on Thursday. After that, Panama president Juan Carlos Verela will once again travel to Japan in April to sign a final agreement on the 27-kilometer project.
The monorail, which is planned to start being prepared this year, will be Central America's first monorail. It will also be the largest Japan-supported infrastructure investment in Panama's history, according to Bloomberg.
The agreement stated that Japan will help finance the project. The financing will be channeled via Japan Bank for International Cooperation, which is backed by the government.
As for further terms of the agreement, Panama's vice minister of foreign affairs Luis Miguel Hincapie said that it's yet to be set. Hincapie also said that the president's visit to Japan this January is crucial as a framework for the final agreement, according to The Irish Times.
The monorail project, that would extend to the Central American nation's trans-oceanic canal, would have a significant impact on the nation's measure of transportation. Right now, a trip from the suburbs to the city center of Panama City can take three hours by car because of traffic. After the monorail is completed, the trip is estimated to would have only taken 45 minutes.
Furthermore, the project can also expand and strengthen existing business ties between Japan and Panama. In fact, according to Panama news media La Prensa, the president's trip to Japan will also focus on promoting business opportunities in Panama.
Japan is considered an advanced country when it comes to monorail transportation. Tokyo Monorail, built in 1964, is still operational and remains the world's busiest and often considered the most commercially successful monorail line. Osaka Monorail in Japan is also the world's largest monorail.
Previously, Japan has also offered to assist India in building their monorail. It is also known that Japan has been interested in cooperation with urban development sector. Their multimodal transportation includes metro rail, monorail and light rail transport.
It is yet to be decided which Japanese company will specifically be involved in this project, but it is reported that Hitachi Ltd. industrial group is highly interested in taking part in the project. Other than that, Mitsubishi Corp. is also showing interest.
The estimation is that the project will be finished after 5 years of construction and will be ready in 2022. The government's preliminary studies shown that the 27-kilometer long project will have 14 stations that will expand from Albrook to La Chorrera.
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