The bullet train project linking São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro has returned to the forefront. An authorization given on the 2nd by the National Land Transport Agency (ANTT) to the company TAV Brasil resurrected an old dream of the Lula and Dilma governments.
The regulatory agency endorsed an analysis of the conceptual design and technical specifications. The next step is to hire a company that will carry out the environmental impact study (EIA) of the work, a process that must be forwarded to Ibama. The contract provides for the construction and operation of the railroad for 99 years.
TAV Brasil has up to two years to present the development of the engineering project and its implementation and obtain the environmental licenses. According to “Folha de S. Paulo”, the company will start conversations with mayors and governors of the states, to obtain environmental and installation licenses.
The special purpose company was created in February 2021, has a share capital of R$ 100,000, and has two companies and lawyer Marcos Joaquim Gonçalves Alves as partners.
Bernardo Figueiredo, former general director of ANTT, is the president of TAV Brasil. He led the design of the first high-speed train, in the second term of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2007-10). And, in 2012, he was nominated by then-President Dilma Rousseff to preside over the High Speed Rail Transport Company (Etav), a state-owned company created to administer the project.
Idea exists at least since 2007
The idea of building a bullet train between the two largest Brazilian cities exists at least since 2007, targeting the 2014 World Cup, which was hosted in Brazil. And even had its public notice released in July 2010. A new attempt was made during the government of Dilma Rousseff. But the project did not go ahead due to technical and financial feasibility issues.
The dream may be the same, but the projects are different. The current idea is to make a connection of 378 kilometers between the North Zone of São Paulo (Pirituba neighborhood) and the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro (Santa Cruz neighborhood). The connection with the center of the two cities would be made by branch lines or by taking advantage of existing railways.
Four stations are planned: São Paulo, São José dos Campos, Volta Redonda and Rio de Janeiro and the journey would take an hour and a half. The investment is estimated at approximately R$ 50 billion, with fully private capital. The forecast is that the trains will start operations in 2032.
The intention of the old project, in turn, was to build a line linking Campinas to Rio de Janeiro, passing through three important Brazilian airports – Viracopos, Guarulhos and Galeão/Tom Jobim. Part of the journey through São Paulo would be underground and at least nine stations would be built.
The concession notice for the exploitation of public rail transport services by high-speed train was launched in July 2010. The forecast was that the auction would take place on December 16 of the same year. The proposal was budgeted at R$ 33.1 billion (R$ 69.3 billion in today’s values, corrected by the IPCA).
The National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) would finance up to R$ 19.9 billion (R$ 41.6 billion in today’s values) and the costs of expropriation and release of previous environmental licenses, were estimated, at the time, at R$ 3.4 billion (R$ 7.1 billion in today’s values) and would be the responsibility of the federal government.
The resources spent would be incorporated as capital of the state-owned company Etav, linked to the Ministry of Transport, which would have a minority stake in the consortium that would build and operate the railroad.
According to ANTT, ETAV would be responsible for absorbing and transferring the technology for implantation, operation and maintenance of the high-speed train to national companies and research institutes. It would also be responsible for supervising the work.
A new attempt to take the project forward was made during the Dilma Rousseff government, but it failed because there was no interest from investors due to the cost of the project and the risks of demand and engineering.
Bullet train feasibility
The new project, coordinated by TAV Brasil, provides for three types of partnerships, in addition to financial investors: one to build the railroad; one specialized in building trains; and another for the operation.
The Chinese have an advantage, according to “Folha”, as they are interested in financing infrastructure in Latin America. The country also has the largest high-speed rail network in the world, with 22,000 km of extension.
According to “Infomoney”, among the financial institutions that should be activated are the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB), better known as the “Brics bank” – a bank that may be presided over by Dilma Rousseff, if Lula’s will prevails.
As a work of this size requires heavy investment, it is common for governments to participate in the exploration of the modal. This is what happens, for example, in France, where the state-owned SNCF operates high-speed trains.
At least publicly, the Brazilian government says it does not intend to participate in the bullet train. The CEO of state-owned company Infra SA, Jorge Bastos, told G1 that the government has no interest in becoming a partner in the project. The positioning reinforces the statement by the Minister of Transport, Renan Filho, that it is a completely private project.
Another of the challenges of the project is the cost: due to the speed, which can reach 350 km/h, the route would need to be straight or with gentle curves, requiring the construction of tunnels and viaducts to cross the Serra do Mar, which would make the journey more expensive. cost of works.
Another problem is the environmental issue. The first project went through areas of the Atlantic Forest and water sources, which would demand a great negotiation process for the expropriation of the areas, according to the newspaper “O Estado de S. Paulo”. Another problematic point is that the stations in Rio and São Paulo would be built in areas far from the center of both cities.
Bullet train project had its own structure in the government
Etav was created in May 2011, through the conversion of MP 511 into law 12,404. Its purpose was the development of the high-speed train, integrated with other modes of transport.
With Law 12,473, Etav was renamed as a Planning and Logistics Company (EPL) and had its scope expanded to provide services in the area of projects, studies and research aimed at subsidizing the planning of infrastructure, logistics and transport in Brazil.
New changes took place in May 2022, when the government took the decision to merge Valec, specialized in railway projects, with EPL, to create a new company, Infra SA, responsible for planning and structuring projects for the transport sector. .
The decision to merge the two state-owned companies was due to the fact that they had characteristics in common: the only partner was the Union and both were dependent on Budget resources.
“The measure is also relevant in a context where the tendency of the infrastructure sector is to assign the operation and exploitation of certain services and activities to the private sector as a way to improve the services provided, reduce expenses, leverage investments and improve the allocation of resources public”, informed the federal government in September last year, when communicating the merger.
“There will also be a reduction of 12 positions in statutory positions, which comprise directors and advisors of the two companies, which will represent an annual savings of 34% in fees for these positions. the reduction of surplus structures is expected,” the statement said.
At the time, the government also stressed that the incorporation would not imply an increase in expenses with personnel and social charges. EPL’s 143 employees would join Valec’s 729. At the end of 2021, according to the Aggregate Report of Federal State Companies (Raeef), Etav’s successor had 128 employees, who received, on average, R$ 13,102 per month.