Rio - Sao Paulo high speed line map

BRAZIL: National Land Transport Agency ANTT has granted approval for work to resume on planning for a high speed railway between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

The ruling was published in Brazil’s Official Gazette on February 22 after endorsement by the ANTT board on February 13.

The decision follows an initial application a year ago by TAV Brasil Empresa Brasileira de Trens de Alta Velocidade SPE Ltda to build and operate a Rio – São Paulo high speed line under the Bolsonaro government’s Pro Trilhos initiative to encourage private investment in rail projects. Further details of the proposal were subsequently submitted to ANTT, leading to the formal announcement of a 99-year concession in the Official Gazette. The project becomes the 39th scheme to receive ANTT’s ratification under railway legislation dating from 2021.

The R$50bn project envisages a 378 km route with intermediate stations at São José dos Campos (km 95) and Volta Redonda (km 203). The São Paulo terminus would be located in the Pirituba area to the northwest of the city while that in Rio would be at Santa Cruz to the west of the central district. The line would be designed for trains to run at up to 350 km/h.

Studies for the scheme are expected to be finished by the end of 2024, allowing the promoters to submit applications for the licences needed to cover construction, environmental impact and operations. Assuming that the licences can be secured, a start on construction is envisaged in 2025-26, with completion expected by December 2031. This would allow commercial services to start in mid-2032.

End-to-end journey time is estimated at around 90 min. However, the railway would have to compete against well-established and very frequent inter-city bus services using the BR116 federal highway and the busy air shuttles between the downtown airports at Santos Dumont in Rio de Janeiro and Congonhas in São Paulo.

For the project to move ahead, TAV Brasil must sign an ‘adhesion contract’ within 30 days and then commit to meeting other milestones.

TAV Brasil was set up in February 2021 with four shareholders: Marcos Joaquim Goncalves Alves, João Henrique Sigaud Cordeiro Guerra and the companies Global Ace Participacoes e Investimentos Ltda and Infra SA Investimentos e Serviços. It has a share capital of R$100 000 and is based in the Vila Buarque area of São Paulo.

The company envisages that 80% of the capital cost for the new line could be raised through a financing package involving pension funds, national and international investors, multilateral credit agencies and Brazilian Development Bank BNDES.

Proposals to develop a Rio – São Paulo high speed line date back to the 1980s, at which time the scheme included a link to Campinas. Several attempts have been made over the years to get the project off the ground. The most recent attempt was targeted at opening in time for Brazil’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2014, but investors failed to back the proposal.