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Football: World Cup transport a worry for Brazil

1.14K   //    29 Nov 2012, 18:24 IST


Brazil's neglected infrastructure will present a significant challenge for the host nation despite $13.65 bn investment

A man jogs next to a graffiti on the wall of Rio’s Line 2-Maracana subway station, in Rio de Janeiro. Congested airports and urban traffic mean Brazil faces a major transportation headache as it gears up for the 2014 World Cup.

With congested airports, ramshackle roads and nightmarish urban traffic jams, Brazil faces a major transportation headache as it gears up for the 2014 World Cup.

Despite planned investments of $13.65 billion for the soccer extravaganza, this continent-sized country cannot make up in the remaining 18 months for decades of neglect of its infrastructure, experts say.

The key challenge in preparing for the tournament “is the infrastructure around the (host) stadiums and how to access them. Brazilian roads are dreadful, except for those of Sao Paulo and the airports are horrendous,” said sports analyst Juca Kfouri.

Am estimated 500,000 foreign tourists and three million Brazilians are expected to attend matches in 12 host cities for the first World Cup to be held in Brazil since 1950.

The road system is saturated in Brazil — traveling less than 30 kilometers (19 miles) in Rio can take two hours and in Sao Paulo, the country’s economic capital, rush-hour traffic bottlenecks can be 250 kilometers long.

In Brazil, the world’s sixth largest economy with a population of 194 million, traffic accidents claim on average 117 lives daily, often due to the poor quality of roads and inadequate signs.

To try to tackle these problems, the government is considering decreeing public holidays when World Cup games are scheduled.

Meanwhile air travel may be more secure but is equally complicated. Airports are notoriously saturated, many are in disrepair and planned renovation work for the World Cup may not be ready in time, according to analysts.

Most of “the airports in Brazil are congested. If things do not improve, there will be problems,” Roberto Kriete, president of the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association, said recently.

Air transport in Brazil has soared more than 120 percent over the past decade, when more than 30 million people were lifted out of poverty. And it exceeds by far the increase in capacity.

Work on airports is progressing “at a slow place”, the court tasked with auditing spending on the World Cup said recently.

In 2011, the government privatized three airports — two in Sao Paulo and one in Brasilia — breaking the monopoly of Infraero, the government corporation in charge of operating the main commercial airports. And plans to privatize airports in Rio and Belo Horizonte are running behind schedule.

International executive aviation could also face “serious problems” during the World Cup due to the lack of space at Brazilian airports, according to Jose Efromovich, president of Avianca Brasil.

“We are talking about 800, 900 or 1000 jets of people coming (to Brazil) to bring millions and millions of dollars in investment. These people must fly in aboard their private planes. Where are we going to park them?,” he asked.

“Very few Brazilian airports have the required infrastructure,” he added.

“Transportation will be very, very complicated during the World Cup,” concurred Chris Gaffney, an urban planning expert at Rio’s Fluminense Federal University (UFF) who is studying urban changes linked to the World Cup and the 2016 Rio summer Olympics.

“There is no national transport blueprint (…) Almost all urban mobility projects are running behind schedule and those airports that will not be privatized will not be ready for the World Cup,” he predicted.

“You still cannot buy a domestic air ticket on a Brazilian airline without a Brazilian tax number or without a Brazilian credit card. There is no map of the Rio bus system nor passenger rail links between the host cities,” he lamented.

Earlier this year, the federal government announced an economic stimulus scheme to upgrade the country’s aging infrastructure by selling road and railway concessions to the private sector.

Private companies are to bid on concessions for 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) of train tracks — through a mix of state and private investments estimated at $45 billion — and 7,500 kilometers (4,600 miles) of highways, an estimated investment of $21 billion.

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