Transport Theory

Sao Paulo's new monorail: too late for the World Cup?

Sao Paulo's new monorail: too late for the World Cup?

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The monorail promises to help ease the city's chronic traffic congestion. But current construction estimates suggest the project may not be completed in time for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Countries around the world are struggling to make their cities’ transportation systems more efficient, effective, and ultimately reduce commuters’ dependence on their cars.

This is particularly true of Brazil, a country of 190 million people that is set to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup in 12 cities scattered throughout the country. Brazil, which is roughly the size of the continental U.S., is using the opportunity to upgrade its transportation infrastructure, from its airports to its subway lines.

The city in most need of infrastructure upgrades is arguably São Paulo, the world’s seventh-largest city and one of the hosts of the 2014 World Cup. With a population of roughly 20 million people, the sprawling metropolis is slightly larger than Los Angeles and slightly smaller than the greater New York City.

In a city whose subway system is limited to a relatively small central network, gridlock and extensive traffic jams are a daily nightmare for its citizens, many of whom have no option but to travel by car, bus, or motorbike. São Paulo’s urban planners have the particularly daunting task of making its 3,000 square miles accessible to its population and to the expected influx of tourists in 2014.  São Paulo will also be one of the cities to host the soccer competition in the 2016 Olympics, to be based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The São Paulo Metro recently awarded a US$862 million contract to build the city’s first elevated monorail between the city’s airport and its existing subway system. A consortium that includes Malaysia’s Scomi Engineering – a company that focuses on transport solutions – and Brazil’s Andrade Guttierez and CR Almeida will begin work on the project next month.

The monorail will run 49 feet above ground for 11 miles, stopping at 18 stations. Construction is expected to take three and a half years. Although the project is meant to be part of the city’s transportation overhaul in anticipation of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the competition is likely to kick off in mid-2014, a full six months before the project is expected to be completed.

For São Paulo, the project would provide some much-needed relief to traffic-clogged streets in a part of the city that lacks access to efficient public transportation. But the project also represents an opportunity for Scomi, a company that specializes in energy and transport solutions, to gain a foothold in a potentially lucrative market with a significant need for effective transportation solutions.

“We are committed to leverage on our expertise as a turnkey specialist of rail systems,” said Scomi group chief executive officer Shah Hakim Zain, “and to ensure that we take full advantage of the opportunities in urban transportation projects in Brazil and other parts of the world.”

If successful, the monorail could represent a viable transportation solution for large cities around the world. But with the 2014 World Cup only three years away, will the project be too little, too late?

Photos: Renderings for another monorail line in Sao Paulo, the Expresso Tiradentes, set for completion in 2014. (Bombardier)

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Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure