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Rail Stories

Unraveling gridlock in Quito

How our advanced rail control solutions are helping an ancient city solve a persistent mobility challenge.

Situated high in South America’s Andes Mountains, the capital of Ecuador has much that makes it special. Quito is the world’s closest capital to the equator and, an altitude of 2,850 metres, makes it the second-highest capital in the world. With foundations dating back to ancient pre-Colombian civilization, Quito is also home to the best-preserved historic city center in the Americas, a fact that earned it the distinction of being named one of the first UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites in 1978.

It's estimated that it would require 69 trees per-passenger to account for the yearly C02 emissions as a result of Quito’s daily car and bus commutes

In 2000, the World Bank estimated that 75 percent of Quito’s commuters rely on the city’s public bus system for their daily commute.

However, Quito’s geographic location presents a unique mobility challenge. Located in the Guayllabamba river basin in Ecuador’s northern highlands, Quito was built on a long plateau lying on the eastern side of the Pichincha volcano. The city stretches 45 kilometres north-to-south but is only five kilometres at its widest part. Quito’s irregular, narrow shape, combined with the heavy reliance on automobiles, means heavy traffic regularly chokes the city as buses and cars jockey for their turn to pass through the various bottlenecks blocking their paths – especially during rush hour. 

An ancient city gets its first metro

To combat the persistent public transportation challenges facing Quito, the region’s local government, El Gobierno Descentralizado de Pichincha, decided to create an integrated transportation system, one that incorporated a metro system to bring better urban mobility to the capital. Soon after, construction for the city's first metro line began in 2012.

With completion scheduled to take place in 2019, Quito’s new underground will rely upon a fleet of 18 trains, equipped with all the amenities expected for a modern metro system. Each will include wireless broadband, video surveillance, fire control systems and capacity to transport up to 1,500 passengers on each trip. 

To ensure the system runs smoothly and safely, the Quito Metro Line 1 consortium of civil work companies Acciona México and Acciona Industrial chose Bombardier to deliver the line’s rail control system.

In 2016, we began implementing the rail control and signalling solution BOMBARDIER CITYFLO 350, including a EBI Screen central traffic control system and EBI Cab onboard automatic train protection and operation equipment.

Designed primarily for metro applications and in operation in various cities throughout the world, the CITYFLO 350 semi-automatic train operation system enables high capacity while maintaining the highest passenger safety standards. Its estimated that these systems will greatly shorten the north-south commute to 34 minutes, compared to up to 90 when done by car.

The Bombardier Transportation team welcomes the first train for Quito’s new metro line: Andrea Santillan, Project Manager for Quito Metro, and Javier Cespedes, Installation Testing and Commissioning Engineer (left to right)

The Bombardier Transportation team welcomes the first train for Quito’s new metro line: Andrea Santillan, Project Manager for Quito Metro, and Javier Cespedes, Installation Testing and Commissioning Engineer (left to right)

Construction continues

Quito metro under construction at the Quitumbe bus depot


In late 2016, the discovery of archeological remains stropped construction on one of Quito’s 15 stations, prompting the site to be moved two blocks south from Plaza de San Francisco to Plaza 24th of May.

Undaunted, progress is still ongoing and when complete, Quito’s 22-kilometre Line 1 will connect the Labrador Bus Station in the north to the Quitumbe bus station in the south.

Once in operation, the new metro system is expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30,000 tonnes each year.

Quito's first metro line is scheduled to open in 2019.

The capital's new metro system is expected to reduce cross-city journey time from 90 to 34 minutes and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30,000 tonnes each year.

Fast facts: Quito Metro Line 1

2019 expected opening

1,500 passengers per-trip

37 km/h average speed

15 stations

18 six-car trains

22 km long

Improving mobility across South America

Suuitable for nearly all applications, the INTERFLO 150 industiral solution in in service at Chile’s El Teniente Mine.

Our Quito Metro prioject builds upon an already strong footprint in South America. In 2011, Peru's LIma Metro began opeperating with our CITYFLO 350 solution, with further extensions planned. The CITYFLO 650 is also in delivery for São Paulo's Metro where the system will enable trains to safely circulate with a short 75-second headway.

We are also proving rail control for mainline projects in South America.  Chile's Rancagua regional rail corrider and Rio De Janeiro's SuperVia commuter service are both being equipped with our INTEFO 250 -  part of the first applications of European Rail Traffic Management Safety Sytems (ERTMS) in South America.