The idea of a high-speed rail link between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro has often been mooted – and just as often abandoned. Having seen successive failed attempts (most notoriously ahead of the 2014 Fifa World Cup), I, like so many Brazilians, had lost hope. But TAV Brasil, a private company formed to build and operate the line, has now received authorisation to start planning the R$50bn (€9bn) route. This time, the news feels different: a departure, if you will.
Unlike previous attempts, Brazil’s government won’t be directly involved in the project. It will be entirely private and there are suggestions that international developers might also be brought in. According to a statement made by Bernardo Figueiredo, TAV’s director, the journey time on the 378km route will be about 90 minutes, with trains travelling at speeds of up to 350km/h. If that ends up being true, it will be a welcome development for the millions of people who commute between Brazil’s economic and tourist centres every week. The Rio-São Paulo flight route is already one of the world’s busiest.
Most Brazilian trains in operation are used for freight or shorter passenger routes; the network is almost nonexistent on an intercity level. Though I remain sceptical about the project’s financing, I am very supportive of the idea of linking Brazil’s two most-populous cities – surely a prerequisite for the country to be competitive in the 21st century. I also believe that the recently elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, should prioritise improving the rail network as a way to reduce carbon emissions without harming economic growth. And I rather like the idea of hopping on a quick train from downtown São Paulo to enjoy a sunny weekend on Ipanema beach.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a producer and senior correspondent of Monocle 24. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.