By Maria Lopez Conde, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Poor track maintenance may have been behind three SuperVia train derailments in the last two weeks, the rail network’s concessionaire admitted in a press release last Friday. SuperVia also said it has established an internal committee to investigate the accidents, which led to delays and shutdowns on the lines that service Rio de Janeiro’s suburbs.
“The concessionaire has already identified a failure in the track maintenance procedure, which could have been the cause of the recent derailments and has fired the professional responsible for the area,” explained Odebrecht TransPort, SuperVia’s concessionaire, in a press release, adding that it is cooperating with government investigators.
On April 11th, a train traveling from Central do Brasil to Santa Cruz station derailed about 700 meters away from Central. Passengers disembarked and walked along the tracks back to the nearest station.
As a result, train lines were paralyzed, spreading chaos among passengers waiting on crowded platforms and the police was asked to intervene. This was the third time a SuperVia train derailed in the month of April.
On April 3rd, a train traveling from Central do Brasil to São Cristóvão came off its tracks. Passengers made their way back to Central by foot. The ordeal provoked delays in the Santa Cruz, Japerí, Belford Roxo and Saracuruna lines. Less than 24 hours later, a train traveling from Central do Brasil to Santa Cruz also derailed. No injuries were reported, but the incident prompted disruptions.
The derailment on April 11th caused delays and overcrowding on every line for the entire week. They even caused the next incident, when a man was taken to the hospital after falling out of an overcrowded train traveling with open doors between Deodoro and Vila Militar stations on Friday.
Governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral, lamented the accidents and highlighted the rail network’s transformation.
“It is a moment of transition from a system that was totally neglected for decades to new and modern equipment. That increases demand. The company’s president already said it was a human error and Agetransp will act on what happened,” Cabral affirmed as he exited an event for Rio’s Commercial Association last Friday, noting that passenger capacity on trains had almost doubled in thirteen years.
In its press release, SuperVia’s concessionaire reminded passengers that it is in the midst of a R$2.4 billion transformation of the network it found in a state of dereliction when it started managing it in 2011. Earlier this year, SuperVia announced plans for a new signaling system on its trains.
While coverage and capacity have increased since Rio de Janeiro gave control of its rail network to private companies, passengers often face frequent delays, derailments and crashes. The latest string of accidents come as the city attempts to expand its public transportation infrastructure before the international mega events, highlighting SuperVia’s challenges in servicing Rio’s metro area.
Álvaro Alves, a student who takes the SuperVia from the Duque de Caxias to Central do Brasil every week, missed a test due to delays on Monday. “The disturbances are always the same: crowded trains, delays, unexplained stops, lack of comfort and even safety, but [April 15] was the first time I did not go to college because of the precarious service,” Alves said.
“We pay R$3.10 to travel, so we need goodwill from the concessionaire so that we can enjoy basic benefits like safety, cleanliness, new trains that are maintained properly…and overall, trains and schedules that can deal with the high demand.”