Once the primary means of interurban transportation, domestic rail service is now limited to the longitudinal line that runs from Santiago to Puerto Montt, with a spur to Concepción, and a relic narrow-gauge short line that runs from the heartland city of Talca to the port of Constitución.
Trains are cheap, and recent infrastructure improvements have made them faster. Fares to Temuco are US$19–35 for the 10-hour journey. Passengers can get 85 percent of the fare returned up until two hours before departure.
At present, commuter trains serve on the longitudinal line as far as Rancagua and San Fernando. Plans have been in the works to open a new commuter line on the 70 kilometers between Santiago and the southwestern town of Melipilla, and to the northerly town of Tiltil.
Also under consideration has been a high-speed line to Valparaíso, at a cost of US$800 million, to cut travel time from the capital to 50 minutes at speeds of up to 180 kilometers per hour. Valparaíso and Viña del Mar have their own Metro system, the recently modernized Merval, used by up to eight million passengers per year.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition