By Benjamin Parkin, Contributing Reporter
RIO JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A new cable car that links Morro da Providência to Central do Brasil station and the Cidade do Samba is still yet to open, eight months after its completion in May 2013. The controversial project cost R$75 million and displaced many local families in its construction.
There is still no provisional date for its inauguration. The cable car, or ‘Teleférico’ is reportedly inoperative because, as yet, there is no contractor to run it. It is not known how much a journey will cost, though it has been suggested that residents will receive two free trips a day.
The development is part of the R$163 million Programa Morar Carioca, which includes improving sanitation and repairing roads, itself linked with a broader renovation of Rio’s port area, the Porto Maravilha plan.
It is argued that the cable car prioritizes tourists over residents, giving them access to the top of the morro (hill) from which there are beautiful views of the Guanabara Bay. As such, it is suggested that it is part of an attempt to gentrify the area. On a visit to the site in October 2012, Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes said, “this project has two roles. The first is to serve the population of the hill. Another role is [to attract] tourists.”
The new transport system is 720 meters long and consists of sixteen separate gondolas, each with a capacity of ten people. It follows the construction of a Teleférico in the Complexo do Alemão in 2011, which currently services an average of 12,000 people per day. On weekdays, seventy percent of these are residents.
The model of linking poor neighborhoods to strategic transport locations in the city as a primer for socio-economic development was most significantly demonstrated in Colombia with the MetroCable in Medellín, which opened in 2004. A third cable car in Rio is planned for Rocinha, but this is currently being disputed by residents who argue that it is not a priority for the community.
The proposal for Providência was also resisted by those who were angry about the demolition of houses and the loss of its only outdoor square, the Praça Américo Brum, to build the station. The fact that it has so far been stopped has only increased frustration, with some residents labelling it the “Teleférico museum”.
At first it was suggested that around 600 homes – almost a third of the total community – would be demolished in order to complete the Morar Carioca project. So far, however, only around a hundred families have been removed after the courts halted new works after a series of legal challenges.
Compensation is often considered inadequate given the centrality of the location, and replacement housing is far away. RioOnWatch reported the case of an unemployed resident of Providência, who accepted R$45,000 as compensation for the demolition of her home and used the money to buy property in Guaratiba, in the outer Zona Oeste (West Zone).