Chile-Bolivia train route being re-established after 16 years

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LA PAZ, May 8 (Reuters) - Rail line operators are re-establishing a train system to carry Bolivian exports to Chile's Pacific ports for the first time in 16 years, holding out hope of an increase in regional trade.

The freight train route has been defunct since the rail line was scuttled by floods in 2003. But this weekend transportation officials said a trial run of the bi-national rail system was completed when a train reached a spot near the Chilean border town of Charana from Bolivia.

Sixteen cars filled with 410 tonnes of iron coils were hauled by what will be called the Ferrocarril Arica-La Paz train line. Tensions have simmered for decades between the two countries as Bolivia laments its lack of access to the Pacific.

This preliminary test covered 616 total kilometers - 205 in Chile and 411 in Bolivia. The return trip is planned in a few days with a shipment of 400 tons of soybeans from the Bolivian town of Santa Cruz, destined for Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

"We are convinced that the port of Arica is one of the best alternatives for Bolivia to get its exports out to sea," said Rodrigo Pinto, general manager of one of the operators, the Arica Port Company. (Reporting by Santiago Limachi; writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by David Gregorio)