RJ-SP Bullet Train Delayed Until 2016

By Sibel Tinar, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – The high-speed rail project that will facilitate travel between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo is moving forward, as Brazil faces increasing scrutiny as the next host of World Cup in 2014.

A high-speed Alfa Pendular train of Portugal at Lisbon's Oriente station, photo by Miguel Borges/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Intended to be ready in time for the 2014 World Cup to alleviate the inter-city transportation concerns, the construction of TAV RJ-SP (Rio-São Paulo High-Speed Rail) is now estimated by some for late 2016 with only a hope of having some key parts operational by the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The official bidding for the construction of the rail is scheduled for December 16th, and so far companies from seven countries with developed high-speed train networks have expressed their interest in the project. The ceiling for the economy-class ticket prices for a trip between Rio and São Paulo has been set at R$199.80 (USD$112), and the company that offers the lowest fare will be the winner.

The cost of the project, which will be a joint venture between the government and the winning bidder, is estimated to cost R$33.1 billion (USD$18.6 billion), and generate R$192 billion (USD$108 billion) in revenue within the first forty years of operation. The bullet trains are expected to serve about 18,000,000 passengers annually.

The government will also be giving the winning bidder some flexibility, however, in order to potentially have a usable portion ready in time for the 2014 World Cup.

Bernardo Figueiredo, the director of Agência Nacional de Transportes Terrestres (ANTT, National Land Transportation Agency) has insisted that while the investors will have the option to complete the construction in stages, the priority remains the construction of the project as a whole.

President Lula speaking with Minister Erenice Guerra and ANTT Director Bernardo Figueiredo at the high-speed rail project public introduction ceremony, photo by Wilson Dias/ABr.

“We realize that an event with the magnitude of the Olympics is of course of interest to investors, as it is a marketing element for the project that will attract demand”, Figueiredo said, “therefore, we will aim to create the conditions for this project to be completed in four years.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was more reluctant to set the inauguration date as early as 2014 at a ceremony last week where he signed a bill to create the Empresa de Transporte Ferroviário de Alta Velocidade (National High-Speed Rail Company), which will be monitoring the project under the Ministry of Transportation, and will be allotted capital of R$3.4 billion (USD$1.9 billion).

Lula stated that while it was possible to set up extra shifts to speed up the construction, the infrastructure and the planning of the project indicated a feasible completion date in early 2016, just in time for the Olympics.

Despite being the world’s fifth largest country, Brazil’s transport infrastructure suffers from a lack the of a national rail network. Commercial transportation in Brazil relies heavily on highways and roads, as well as airports concentrated in the most populous cities, which are already operating well over their capacity.

The existing railroads and trains in Brazil are insufficient in both range and capacity, and mostly in poor condition or completely out of operation and even though train travel is not a preferred method of transportation, some short, regional lines have been operating as tourist attractions, thanks to their scenic routes and historic trains.

The high-speed rail line will extend from the Central Station in Rio de Janeiro to metropolitan São Paulo, and continue into Campinas with a total of ten stations including the cities’ major airports.

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