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Station to Station | Fleet Renewal and Metrogate


Source: Brasil de Fato

A billion-dollar renovation of the trains that run on the São Paulo Metrô system — whose contracts are being investigated by the Public Ministry  (MP) — may explain the hundreds of incidents that have taken place in the system in recent years — the most serious being  the derailment of a Line 5 train between Marechal Deodoro and Barra Funda stations last Friday (August 5).

Or they may not. I wonder how other major subway systems in the world stack up.

The train that derailed is known as K07 and is part of Fleet K, which is being renovated by the MTTrens consortium, comprising MPE, Tejofran and Temoinsa.

The contract between MTTrens and the São Paulo government is one of four, signed in 2009, as part of a package for the modernization of the trains  of Line 1 and 3, worth R$ 1.8 billion. The package covers 98 trains on the North-South and East-West branches.

Notable Incidents

The failure that caused the derailment occurred in the so-called “truck” — this term designates the integrated system of wheels, traction, and braking. Incidents like this, which affect the subway rider with stoppages or reduced speeds, are called “notable incidents.”

Last year, according to the São Paulo Metrô Workers Union, there were 215 such incidents. In 2013, thus far there have been 65.

Which actually means their number has fallen.

According  to one of the investigations being conducted by the MP based on an alleged bribery scheme that operated under successive governments of the PSDB, the contracts for the modernization projects involving the Metrô and the Companhia Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos (CPTM) commuter rail line, caused damage to public property and involved administrative impropriety .

In the view of this union, the cost of these renovations is inexplicable. According to the contract, a train car is renovated for a price that is 83% of the price of a new car. What is more, the warranty on a new car lasts 10 years, where a used (renovated) train carries a warranty of only two years.

On Friday (August 6), prosecutor Marcelo Milani said that the negotiated price of a renovated train could indicate cooperation with the cartel denounced by Siemens to the antitrust authority, CADE.

Train K07, which suffered Monday’s accident, was delivered after being refurbished along with K01 in mid-2011.  Both lines were the first to undergo refurbishing in the workshop of MPE, a Rio de Janeiro-based engineering firm.

“A truck having a problem like this has never occurred during the commercial operation of any train,” says Paulo Pasin, union secretary-general, “The problem  originated during renovation and not during maintenance. The truck furnished was not of the same quality that the Metrô has historically operated with.

To Paulo Pasin, the risk of more incidents is “obvious.” “That is why the  K Fleet  was taken out of circulation after the problem, for inspection.” Line 3-Red is the most overcrowded, in the system, receiving 1.2 million passengers a day.

The four refurbishing contracts are as follows: Fleet I, awarded to a consortium of Siemens and Iesa; Fleet J, which falls to Bombardier; Fleet K ,in the care of the MTTrens consortium, which consists of MPE, Tejofran and Temoinsa; and Fleet L was awarded to Alstom and Siemens.

The contracts used in the renovation of Line 3 provide, among other things, for “innovations in the air conditioning, doors, traction and electric braking.”

System Compatibility

The problems have not stopped with the delivery of the renovated cars, the union says,

“Often a subsequent ‘reworking’ by Metrô teams is necessary due to the quality of the service provided,” says Pasin. “For example: of the trains being refurbished, several have a control system called CBTC, which, to use an analogy, works something like the on-board computer of an aircraft. The problem is that this system, which should be fully installed in the subway by now, was not approved because of technical issues.”

“As a consequence, because the CBTC cannot “talk to” the system that operates the Metrô, which is older, it is necessary to “rework” or “work around” the system,”Pasin says.  “If you don’t, the train just sits there because it is unable to enter active service. This incudes all the fleets covered by the four contracts, including the Line 2-Green.”

Sought for comment, the Metrô and the contractor MPE gave no statement.