The incredible story of an endless metro of 4 miles

Photo: Vaner Casaes/Agecom

Gilson Jorge

Octávio Manganbeira , who was the governor of Bahia between 1947 e 1951, coined a phrase which is still frequently quoted: think of an absurd, there is precedent in Bahia.

And the larger and more expensive, perhaps, all the absurdities of this beautiful state in northeastern Brazil is a four miles long metro, that has consumed more than RS $ 1 billion (just over US$ 500 million), and, 13 years later, still no sign of that will come into operation.

Even because a metro with that extension is economically unfeasible. The tragicomic story of Metro Salvador begins in the 1990s, when the mayor decides that the city needs a mass transport. For the initial project, the subway would double the actual size.

But as resources for the work evaporated too early, the federal government, who pays for the construction of most of the subways in Brazil, decided to reduce the size by half. But this is only one of the absurdities related to it.

Despite its obvious futility, the Metro has created great expectations in Salvador’s population and, of course, became the object of political manipulation.

By the terms of the contract, the municipality was in charge of running the physical work and the state government was responsible for the purchase of trains.

Former Governor Paulo Souto refused to import the cars before the tracks were ready, in principle a policy that was followed by his successor, current Governor Jaques Wagner.

But the subject came up in the last municipal election. Despite not having completed their part in the agreement, Mayor João Henrique, who was seeking reelection, accused the government of wanting to harm the inauguration of the work.

Wagner, who supported a candidate of his party, rushed to buy the trains from South Korea and submit them pompously to the society to refrain from blame.

As there were no railings to put the six trains and 24 wagons, which cost US$ 50 million, the government had to pay about US$ 40,000 monthly for a year to rent warehouses.

Two months ago, the train finally arrived at the track. And they should be tested later this year, but there is no forecast of when they will carry passengers.

After Salvador was chosen as one of the cities of the 2014 World Cup, the state government managed to convince the federal government to release more funds to double the length of the subway system and harmonize it with urban rail lines and new bus routes.

The Argentines, who often make fun of the alleged megalomania of Brazil, “the world’s largest of anything”, will have to acknowledge the humility of their neighbors, who managed to build the smallest metro in the world.

About Gilson Jorge

Fã de Tom Waits, Chico Buarque e Woody Allen, que adora contar histórias do cotidiano
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