Colombian President Ivan Duque this week lauded the signing of a contract with APCA Transmimetro, a Chinese railway construction consortium, to build the first subway line in its capital Bogota.

“Bogota has been dreaming of this for decades. Today we take another step and I would say that it is the most important, the signing of the contract,” said Duque.

“The formal construction of the subway starts now. The transformation of our capital starts now. The largest investment in the history of the city starts now,” he said.

Presiding over the signing of the deal at the presidential headquarters in Bogota, Duque said that the project was set to further China-Colombia collaboration in infrastructure development, China Daily reported.

“I am sure that the successful construction of Bogota’s subway will open frontiers to more projects,” he said, noting that the event coincided with the coming 40th anniversary of bilateral ties.

He also said that during a recent visit to China, he and Chinese officials spoke of the importance of “having more Chinese companies want to come to Colombia to invest in infrastructure projects.”

The World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Investment Bank are also participating in the project, which is expected to generate some 60,000 jobs, according to Duque.

Consortium APCA Transmimetro, comprised of China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd. and Xi’an Metro Company Ltd., will be involved in every aspect of the project, from design, partial financing, building the stations and supplying the trains, to operating the system for 20 years.

According to Dialogo Chino, the elevated Bogotá metro line, which includes 23.96 km of overpass and 16 stations, will run through the city from south to north.

The mayor estimates that it will transport 72,000 passengers per hour, helping ease the existing pressure on the Transmilenio bus rapid transit (BRT) system that Peñalosa inaugurated during his first stint as mayor (1998-2001) but which can no longer support demand.

Main APCA partner CHEC is a subsidiary of the state-owned infrastructure giant China Communications Construction Company, which has a global portfolio and ranks 110th in Forbes’ list of the world’s 500 largest companies.

The smaller is a company from Shaanxi Province that operates mainly in China and was responsible for the construction and operation of the metro in Xi’an, the city of 7 million that is perhaps most famous for being home to the famous terracotta army that adorns the first Chinese emperor’s mausoleum.

Neither of the two Chinese companies has participated in metro or rail projects in Latin America.

Unlike most of its Andean neighbours, Colombia has shied away from joining China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative and granted few big infrastructure contracts to Chinese companies.

However, CHEC is currently building a 30-kilometre portion of the highway connecting second city Medellín with the Caribbean coast.

Elsewhere in Latin America, CHEC has constructed several road and port projects in Latin America, but few mass transportation systems.

In Costa Rica, CHEC oversees the extension of Route 32 between capital San José and the Caribbean port of Limón, works financed by US$395 million loan from China’s Eximbank. The project was slated for completion by the end of 2020, although the government recognizes it will take longer.

According to national La Nación, 20% of the workers hired by CHEC come from China.