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Transport in Argentina

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Transport in Argentina

Transport in Argentina is mainly based on a complex network of routes, crossed by relatively inexpensive long-distance buses and by cargo trucks. The country also has a number of national and international airports. The importance of the long-distance train is minor today, though in the past it was widely used. Fluvial transport is mostly used for cargo.

Within the urban areas, the main transportation system is by the bus or colectivo; bus lines transport millions of people every day in the larger cities and their metropolitan areas. Buenos Aires additionally has an underground, the only one in the country, and Greater Buenos Aires is serviced by a system of suburban trains.

Public transportation

Taxis are plentiful in all the larger cities.
Commuter rail station, Belgrano Line, Buenos Aires.

A majority of people employ public transport rather than personal cars to move around in the cities, especially in common business hours, since parking can be both difficult and expensive. Cycling is not very common in big cities, as there are few bicycle paths, making bicycling difficult except in recreational areas.


The Colectivo (urban bus) cover the cities with numerous lines. Fares might be fixed for the whole city, or they might depend on the destination. Colectivos often cross municipal borders into the corresponding metropolitan areas. In some cases there are diferenciales (special services) which are faster, air-conditioned versions, and notably more expensive. Bus lines in a given city might be run by different private companies and/or by the municipal state, and they might be painted in different colours for easier identification. The quality of the service varies widely according to the city, line, and time of the day.


Taxis are very common and relatively accessible price-wise. They have different colours and fares in different cities, though a highly contrasted black-and-yellow design is common to the largest conurbations. Call-taxi companies (radio-taxis) are very common and safe; illegal taxis are common in big cities, and robberies have been reported in those cases. The remisse is another form of hired transport: they are very much like call-taxis, but do not share a common design, and trip fares are agreed beforehand, although there are often fixed prices for common destinations.

Commuter rail

Suburban trains connect Buenos Aires city with the Greater Buenos Aires area, (see: Buenos Aires commuter rail network). Every weekday, more than 1.3 million people commute to the Argentine capital for work and other business. These suburban trains work between 4 AM and 1 AM. Many of the lines are electric, several are diesel powered, while some of these are currently being converted to electric. Trenes de Buenos Aires, UGOFE, Ferrovías and Metrovías are some of the private companies which provide suburban passenger services in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. The only other city in Argentina with a system of suburban trains is Resistencia, the capital of Chaco Province. In Mendoza, there is a tram-train system being planned.[1]


Entrance to a Buenos Aires Metro station.

As of 2008, Buenos Aires is the only Argentine city with an underground metro system, nonetheless there is a project to build a system in the city of Córdoba (Córdoba Metro) making it the second metro system in Argentina. The Buenos Aires Metro (Subterráneo de Buenos Aires) has currently six lines, each labelled with a letter from A to H. A modern tram line (PreMetro) line E2 works as a fedeer of metro line E at their outer terminus as well as the Urquiza line U for metro line B in Chacarita. Daily ridership is 1.3 million and on the increase. Most of the lines of the Buenos Aires Metro connect the city centre (Micro-centro) with areas in the outskirts.

As of 2008, extension of lines A, B, E and H are under construction,[2] and three additional lines (F, G, I) are planned.


Trams (streetcars), once common, were retired as public transportation in the 1960s but are now in the stages of a slow comeback. In 1987 a modern tram line was opened as a feeder for the subway system. A modern light rail line between the Bartolomé Mitre suburban railway station and Tigre (Tren de la Costa) inaugurated in 1996 operates in the northern suburbs. A 2 kilometre tram known as the Tranvía del Este (Eastern Tram) was inaugurated 2007 in the Puerto Madero district in Buenos Aires using French Citadis trams.[3] The city of Mendoza also has its own tram system called the Metrotranvía de Mendoza which has 16 stations and connects the city with its connurbation. Other Argentine cities with tram systems are Paraná and La Plata, both using the nationally built Tecnotren. The city of Santiago del Estero is constructing an elevated light rail system to connect itself with its metropolitan area. Trolleybuses (buses powered by overhead electric wires) are operated in Córdoba, Mendoza and Rosario.

Road transport

The Avenida General Paz beltway freeway was first opened to the public in 1941.

Since Argentina is almost 4,000 kilometres long and more than 1,000 km wide, long distance transportation is of great importance. Several toll expressways spread out from Buenos Aires, serving nearly half the nation's population. The majority of Argentine roads, however, are two-lane national and provincial routes and, though they are spread throughout the country, less than a third of Argentina's 230,000 km (145,000 mi)[4] of roads are currently paved.

Though, by 1929, Argentina was already home to over 400,000 vehicles[5] (more than half the total in Latin America, at the time),[6] virtually all long-distance travel was done on the nation's vast railways. Argentina, then, lacked a road-building program until 1932, when the National Highway Directorate was established. Paid for at first with an excise tax on gasoline, the bureau could claim some important accomplishments, like the 1951 opening of the 200 km Santa Fe-Rosario expressway, Latin America's first.

Argentina is home to around 9.2 million registered cars, trucks and buses;[7] on a per capita basis, it has long had Latin America's widest accessibility to motor vehicles.[8] Left-lane drivers until 1945, Argentine motorists have since been driving on the right-hand side. The Vehicle registration plates of Argentina are based on a three letters-three numbers per car (with the exception of some trucks) system.

Expressways have been recently doubled in length (to nearly)[9] and now link most (though not all) important cities. The most important of these is probably the Panamerican National Route 9 Buenos Aires – RosarioCórdoba freeway. The longest continuous highways are National Route 40, a 5000-km stretch along the Andes range and the 3000-km sea-side trunk road National Route 3, running from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia.

Long distance buses

Argentine long distance buses are fast, affordable and comfortable; they have become the primary means of long-distance travel since railway privatizations in the early 1990s greatly downsized Argentina's formerly ubiquitous passenger rail service. Competing providers differ little on their time-honoured formula, offering three different services regarding the number of stops and type of seats: the Regular, Semi-cama (semi-bed), and Cama (bed), with Cama being similar to an airline's business class. Some services have also on-board dining, while others stop at restaurants by the road. Long and middle-distance buses cover almost all paved-accessible cities, towns and villages.

Rail transport

Long-distance passenger services

Services on Argentina's passenger railway system, once extensive and prosperous, were greatly reduced in 1993 following the break-up of Ferrocarriles Argentinos (FA), the now-defunct state railroad corporation.[10]

Since that date, however, several private and provincial railway companies have been created and have resurrected some of the major passenger trains that FA once operated. The railway network is, however, far smaller than it once was.

Trenes de Buenos Aires, Ferrocentral, Ferrobaires, and Tren Patagónico are some of the private companies that now manage Argentina's long distance passenger rail network. "Satélite Ferroviario" lists the schedules of all long-distance trains in Argentina (in Spanish only).

High-speed rail

A high-speed rail line between Buenos Aires, Rosario and Córdoba with speeds up to 320 km/h is in the design stages. Construction was supposed to begin by early 2009 for the first segment to Rosario.

In 2007 bids were called for a turnkey contract for a second high speed line, linking Buenos Aires and Mendoza.[11]

In February 2008 national government announced another call for bid, this time for construction of a high speed train linking Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata; The Mar del Plata TAVe.[12][13]

Freight train in Salta Province.
View from the Old Patagonian Express.

Freight service

Over 25 million tons of freight were transported by rail in 2007.[14] Currently, five carriers operate freight rail services in Argentina:

Tourist railways

A number of steam powered heritage railways (tourist trains) are in operation; the Old Patagonian Express (locally known as “La Trochita”) in Patagonia, the Train of the End of the World (Southern Fuegian Railway) in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego and a short run Tren Histórico de Bariloche.

A diesel-electric Tren a las Nubes in the province of Salta runs from the city of Salta to San Antonio de los Cobres, (at present this service is being restored).

International rail links to adjacent countries

An "Aerolíneas Argentinas" Boeing 747-475

New International link proposed

On August 23, 2008, a deal was signed between Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela to develop an electified railway link between these countries. A minor hurdle is the use of both 50 Hz and 60 Hz.

Air travel

Though expensive in comparison with the other means of transportation, air travel is becoming increasingly common. Every provincial capital has its own airport, and there are many others, specially in tourist areas such as Bariloche and El Calafate (see list of airports in Argentina). Most companies have several daily flights to the most popular destinations, and daily or less frequent flights to other destinations. Even though Buenos Aires is the most important flight hub, for both economical and geographical reasons, there are flights between important cities, such as Córdoba, Rosario and Mendoza. The national airline is Aerolíneas Argentinas.

Fluvial transport

Fluvial transport is not often used for people, with the exception of those who cross the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento and Montevideo, both in Uruguay. Other services are exclusively used as river crossing, such as those in Tigre.

River traffic is mostly made up of cargo, especially on the Paraná River, which is navigable by very large ships (Panamax kind) downstream from the Greater Rosario area. This area produces and/or ships most of the agricultural exports of Argentina.

Merchant marine

Statistics for the shipping industry of Argentina
Total: 137 ships (1,000 gross register tons (GRT) or over)
Totalling: 2,038,923 GRT/3,057,820 metric tons deadweight (DWT)
Cargo ships
Bulk ships 21
Cargo ship 21
Container ships 8
Roll-on / roll-off ships 8
Liquefied gas tanker ships 12
Chemical tanker ships 8
Petroleum tanker ships 47
Passenger ships
Combined passenger/cargo 12
Source: This article contains material from the CIA World Factbook which, as a US government publication, is in the public domain.


  • Total: 230,137 km (2007)
country comparison to the world: 23
  • Paved: 72,047 km (including 1,575 km of expressways)[9]
  • Unpaved: 158,090 km
  • 31,902 km
country comparison to the world: 9
  • Passengers annually: 2 billion
  • Freight: 26 million metric tons (2008)[17]

10,950 km navigable (2008)

country comparison to the world: 12
  • Freight: 28 million metric tons[18]
Merchant Marine
  • Total: 46
country comparison to the world: 72
  • By type: bulk carrier 3, cargo 9, chemical tanker 2, container 1, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 3, petroleum tanker 24, refrigerated cargo 2, roll on/roll off 1
  • Foreign-owned: 14 (Brazil 1, Chile 7, Spain 2
  • Registered in other countries: 19 (Liberia 3, Panama 8, Paraguay 5, Uruguay 3) (2008)
Ports and harbors

Total (including airstrips): 1,272 (2007)

country comparison to the world: 7

With paved runways:

  • Total: 154
  • Over 3,047 m: 4
  • 2,438 to 3,047 m: 26
  • 1,524 to 2,437 m: 65
  • 914 to 1,524 m: 50
  • under 914 m: 9 (2008)

With unpaved runways:

  • Total: 996
  • Over 3,047 m: 1
  • 2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
  • 1,524 to 2,437 m: 45
  • 914 to 1,524 m: 526
  • under 914 m: 423 (2008)
  • 1 (2007)

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the CIA World Factbook.


  1. ^ BA to test LRT Railway Gazette International September 2006
  2. ^ [1] Subterráneos de Buenos Aires S.E.
  3. ^ Atta, Carlos (2008). "Francia quiere una red de tranvías en Buenos Aires".  
  4. ^ ADEFA
  5. ^ Coche Argentino - Cronología
  6. ^ The World Almanac (1929), p.327.
  7. ^ DNRPA
  8. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Book of the Year, Statistical Appendix; various editions since 1948.
  9. ^ a b html
  10. ^ Argentina sets a new course. Railway Gazette International August 2007.
  11. ^ "Mendoza bids".  
  12. ^ "Bullet train for Mar del plata". 2008-08-02. 
  13. ^ IRJ, September 2007, p524
  14. ^
  15. ^ Initiative for Regional Infrastructure Integration in South America
  16. ^ En julio se licitará tren Los Andes - Mendoza (Spanish)
  17. ^ INDEC: servicios publicos
  18. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Book of the Year: World Data, Transport. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2005.

See also

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