December 8, 2013
Gov’t to control Mitre, Sarmiento lines
Railways will be managed by state-run companies in another near-nationalization
The federal government took control of the management and administration of the Mitre and Sarmiento railway lines yesterday through two state-run companies, repeating a scheme that had been used with other lines that constitutes an almost-nationalization of the metropolitan railway transport system.
Two months ago, the government carried out the same moves with the San Martín, Roca and Belgrano Sur lines.
The measure, which was published yesterday in the Official Gazette comes after harsh criticism from opposition leaders and commuters of the poor travelling conditions as well as the poor conditions of the train lines. More importantly, two train accidents — one at the Once terminal station in February 2012 and another in the Greater Buenos Aires district of Castelar in June 2013 — killed a total of 54 people.
The company that operates the Sarmiento and Mitre train lines (UGOMS) now has 90 days to transfer the concession to the State-Run Train Operator (OFSE), according to the Official Gazette.
AIFSE, the state-run Administration of Railway Infrastructure, will then control the “maintenance and renewal works,” including those currently under way and the “specific investments assigned by the Transport secretariat,” according to the resolution.
Interior and Transport Minister Randazzo acknowledged yesterday that the train service “is still poor,” adding that “it is a pending debt” of the Kirchnerite administration, while at the same time he pledged to have “1,000 new carriages” in 2014.
Relatives of the victims of the Once train accident agreed with the decision but urged authorities to take “substantive action” to ensure passengers’ safety.
María Luján Rey, mother of Lucas Menghini, a victim of the Once train crash, said there is still a need for “comprehensive measures.”
“It’s not a matter of changing names or painting carriages,” she said.
Radical (UCR) party Senator Gerardo Morales said it was another “isolated measure” and added that Kirchnerism did not have “a renewal plan for Argentine railway lines.”
Leftist lawmaker Fernando “Pino” Solanas, who is currently running for the Senate in the UNEN front, said the operation was “a scam” for commuters, because the takeover does not include “social control” by workers and passengers.
A month ago, the concessions for the San Martín, Roca and Belgrano Sur were rescinded from the Railway Operations Management Unit SA (UGOFE) and became part of the state-run company SOFSE. This was the first major economic measure taken by the administration of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner after the disappointing performance in the primaries of August 11.
At that time, the resolution stated that the decision was aimed at “deepening the process of strategic railway reorganization.”
Before that, the government had seized control of the Urquiza and San Martín cargo train lines for alleged breach of contract of the Brazilian company América Latina Logística.
Last year, after the Once crash, the government forced out then-Transport secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi and enlarged the role of Randazzo to include the transport area, which was taken away from the powerful Federal Planning Minister Julio de Vido..
Randazzo blasts unions
Meanwhile, Randazzo criticized opposition and union leaders yesterday, dubbing thos who blamed the government for the Castelar train accident as “loudmouths.” His words came after an official expert study released Wednesday claimed no mechanical failures were detected and that no attempt to activate the brakes.
“It is regrettable that certain political and union leaders tried to gain political advantage from the accident,” said the Kirchnerite official speaking to Radio Continental. “Amid all this pain, they have come across as irresponsible,” he said. “They are loudmouths — that’s what they are.”
The expert report, which according to Randazzo proves the train was fully repaired and had new brakes, was presented to Judge Jorge Rodríguez.
idB approves US$1.2 billion
The Inter-American Development Bank approved yesterday a credit line for US$1.2 billion to finance a programme to improve metropolitan railroads, including the first loan for $300 million dollars to improve the General Roca railway line.
The IDB reported in a statement that the “overall objective of the conditional credit line is to help Argentina upgrade its metropolitan railroads to increase urban public transport services and improve the quality of life.”
Regarding the General Roca loan, the statement adds that “the project’s objective is to reduce travel times and accidents and improve reliability, in this way increasing ridership in the Buenos Aires City–La Plata corridor.
Herald with DyN, Télam