The Geographical Journal

Proximity to a freight railway has a negative impact on house prices: Quantifying the cost in Santa Marta, Colombia

By Jorge Chica-Olmo, Rafael Cano-Guervos, University of Granada, Spain, and Ivan Tamaris-Turizo, University of Magdalena, Colombia

The city of Santa Marta, Colombia, located on the country’s Caribbean coast, is one of the oldest in South America. Due to its climate, resources, and privileged location on the route to areas of natural beauty, such as the Tayrona National Park and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the city has become an important international tourist destination with the number of visitors increasing in recent years (El Heraldo, 2015). It is also a magnet for investors who want to take advantage of the city’s potential for the development of major projects, making it the most dynamic real estate market in the Caribbean (El Heraldo, 2015).

In this context, there is considerable interest in determining house prices in the city, and thus obtain isovalues maps, to inform planning decisions (Chica-Olmo, 1995; Yue, Liu, & Fan, 2010). To obtain this information, we used primary data on second-hand single-family homes for sale in the first quarter of 2016 and information from the websites of major real estate agencies to quantify the impact of different factors such as the local freight railway line (Atlantic Railway Line) on house prices.

The Atlantic Railway Line, which was inaugurated in 1887, borders Santa Marta to the north and east. It was originally a cargo and passenger line, but today operates as a freight line (transporting mainly coal, 40 million tons per year). The freight train is made up of more than a hundred cars and operates day and night, crossing several populated areas without a set schedule. The train is not equipped with safety mechanisms such as lights, crossing signals or bells to warn residents of its arrival. This has resulted in a number of accidents (Noticias-Uno, 2013). These dangers are compounded by the proximity of dwellings, many of which are located just a few metres from the line and suffer from noise, pollution, cracks in the walls, and other nuisances.

Using spatial econometrics and geostatistics (see our paper in The Geographical Journal for more details, Chica-Olmo et al., 2018), we found that proximity to the freight railway line has a negative impact on house prices in the area, as dwellings located within the buffer zone of the line decrease in value by 14% to 24%. 

About the authors: Jorge Chica Olmo and Rafael Cano-Guervos are based in the Department of Quantitative Methods for Economics and Business  at the University of Granada, and Ivan Tamaris-Turizo is based at the
University of Magdalena.


Chica-Olmo, J. (1995). Spatial Estimation of Housing Prices and Locational Rents. Urban Studies, 32(8), 1331-1344.

Chica-Olmo, J., Cano-Guervos, R. and Tamaris-Turizo, I. (2018). Determination of buffer zone for negative externalities: Effect on housing prices. The Geographical Journal. DOI: 10.1111/geoj.12289

El Heraldo. (2015). Santa Marta turismo, comercio y dinámica inmobiliaria. from

Noticias-Uno. (2013). El tren de la muerte. from

Yue, W., Liu, Y., & Fan, P. (2010). Polycentric urban development: the case of Hangzhou. Environment and planning. A, 42(3), 563.

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