Chile to invest $1 bn to improve Santiago public transport

Santiago, May 29 (EFE).- Chile's government plans to invest 548 billion pesos ($1 billion) to improve this capital's problem-plagued Transantiago public-transport system, President Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.

The program involves both "immediate and mid-term measures," including improvements to the 10 most problematic routes and increased bus coverage at night, she said.

Other planed interventions include building 18 kilometers (11 miles) of new bus-only lanes and connecting the system to Santiago's international airport.

This large injection of funds is aimed at revitalizing the capital's public-transport system, which was inaugurated in 2007 during Bachelet's previous 2006-2010 term as president and became one of her biggest headaches.

Designed during the administration of her predecessor, Ricardo Lagos, Transantiago proved insufficient from the start because its routes failed to meet passengers' needs.

The system also includes a system of transfers and interconnections that have caused serious overcrowding on the Santiago Metro and substantially increased travel times.

Significant investment has been made to get the system running more smoothly, but users remain highly dissatisfied.

"We're aware of the deficiencies and the complaints about Transantiago. Over the past two months, the (transportation) minister and his team have devoted themselves to analyzing the problems and looked for solutions," Bachelet, whose second term began on March 11, said.

"Rather than solving a specific problem, this is part of our commitment to improving people's quality of life," the president added.