CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO —– The city of Rio de Janeiro has finally opened its long-awaited metro Linha 4 less than a week before the Olympic Games begin. But protests marred the ceremony which was attended by Brazil’s interim president Michel Temer.
The 16km line starts running officially tomorrow/Monday but only to spectators and accredited officials for the Games, taking them five stops from General Osorio station in Ipanema to the main Barra Olympic Park.
Members of the public will not be able to use the line until after the Paralympics and a planned refurbishment.
This is one reason for anger and consternation among locals at the government of Rio and the national government. Protesters on Saturday outside the Jardim Oceanico, the end of the line in Barra, claimed the original line was supposed to go much further but that multiple promises have been broken.
One protester, giving his name only as Alexey, told this writer: “When Rio was chosen as the host of the Olympic Games, all the politicians, the government of Rio, the mayor, everybody, they all promised so many things and as usual nothing was done.
End of the line
“Take the subway. This subway was originally meant to end at Alvorada terminal. Alvorada is 4km or 5km away. But now it ends here. It’s a wrong project. When people get here, they will have to change to a bus to get to Alvorada.
“One train can take 2000 passengers, a bus just 200. So every time a bus stops here they will need nine or 10 buses to take everybody to Alvorada.”
The line, which cost almost $3bn, has been beset by problems since it was announced as Rio’s first new metro line in 30 years. Originally, the extension was scheduled to be completed in 2015. The deadline then kept moving from May this year, to July and finally now August.
It is a crucial link transport link for spectators from the tourist hotspot of Ipanema to the Barra park which has nine venues which will host 16 Olympic and nine Paralympic sports.
Services will run until 1am during the Games, starting at 6am on weekdays and 7am on weekends. Shuttle buses will still be needed to take passengers from the Jardim Oceanico station to the Park itself.
This is assuming there are no strikes by subway workers. In another headache for Games organisers and city officials, strike action has been threatened by subway workers if they are not awarded a raise in their wages.
Eliel Vieira Santos Filho, a leader of the subway workers’ union Simerj, said on Thursday: “If there’s no advance in the negotiations, there will be a metro strike from midnight on August 4.”
The union is due to vote on whether to strike on Wednesday. It is seeking a nine per cent rise instead of the five percent currently on offer.
Transport experts have also warned that the new line’s rushed opening leaves no time for sufficient testing and safety drills on the tracks and in each of the stations.
However, President Temer was in a confident mood after riding the rails himself – in an official party which included Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes and State Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao – and pledged that the city of Rio would pull off a successful Games.
Temer said: “I am absolutely certain that Rio de Janeiro will do Brazil an extraordinary service by showing the whole world that Brazil is capable.”
The Opening Ceremony of the the first Games in South America takes place on Friday although the women’s football competition begins on Wednesday with matches in Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.