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By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Expected to integrate and reinvigorate both Rio de Janeiro’s Centro region and the Região Portuária (Port Zone), work on the Veículo Leve sobre Trilhos (the Light Vehicle on Tracks) continues in Rio de Janeiro. Once running it is estimated that 32 trains will eventually operate on the VLT lines and that six lines will help to transport approximately 285,000 passengers per day.

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Image recreation of what the VLT trains and lines might look like on Av. Rio Branco, image courtesy of Porto Maravilha.

Best known as the “VLT”, the project, when completed, should connect Rio’s Centro (Downtown) and Port Zone through 28 kilometers of rail with six lines and 42 stops including four new stations. The average distance between the stops should be four hundred meters, with a waiting time for trains estimated at 2.5 minutes to ten minutes.

In the hopes of easing traffic in those areas of the city, the stops along the lines will connect with major bus, BRT, train, ferry, metro stations and other hubs. Planned stops include the Novo Rio Bus station, the Central do Brasil station, Praça Mauá, Praça XV, where the ferries depart, and the Santos Dumont Airport.

“It is expected that the implementation will be done in three phases. We will build the first phase – a test line that will connect the future Vila de Mídia, a Rodoviária e o Santo Cristo. Another line, [once] this is operational, will connect Campo de Santana to the barges, along Rua 7 de Setembro” explains Luiz Lobo, the director of operations of the Company for Urban Development of the Region of Porto (CDURP)

In August, fifteen kilometers of light rail line for the project arrived in Rio, delivered from Belgium, where the material is manufactured. The new tracks were delivered, following works including the construction of the Center for Integrated Operation and Maintenance (CIOM) in Gamboa and the reconditioning of the Túnel Ferroviário da Providência.

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Map of future the VLT lines, image courtesy the Porto Maravilha.

The tunnel, which runs through Morro da Providência in Centro Rio, was renovated in order accommodate two VLT lines. The tunnel had deteriorated since it was discontinued for use in the 80s. Of the two VLT lines that will run through the tunnel, one will go from Gamboa to Central do Brasil and the second will run in the reverse direction, from Central do Brasil to Gamboa.

“The power of the VLT is electric and a form of energy that is [run] ​​underground. The energy in the rails is automatically triggered only when the vehicle passes by that point, then immediately disconnects,” said Lobo when explaining the rails and their safety, adding, “Therefore, they will offer no risk to the public.”

The VLT project is one part of ongoing urban regeneration works in Rio in preparation for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics. Other projects have included the Transcarioca Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and various Port Zone or Porto Maravilha initiatives.

The estimated cost of the VLT’s six lines is R$1.157 billion, with R$625 million supplied by Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and the remaining R$532 million coming from federal funds and the government’s growth acceleration program, better known as PAC (Aceleração do Crescimento). Completion of the work on the VLT lines is scheduled for 2016 before the Olympics and Paralympics games begin in the city.

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