BUENOS AIRES suburban operator Metropolitano has mounted a legal challenge to the federal government’s attempt to revoke its concession to operate the San Martín commuter route between Buenos Aires and Pilar.

Neither Transport Secretary Ricardo Jaime nor Gustavo Simeonof, Head of the Contract Analysis & Renegotiation Unit, appeared at a hearing to consider the case on July 6, with the government instead contesting the judge’s earlier decision to suspend the process of removing the concession pending further evidence.

Following several weeks of media speculation, President Néstor Kirchner had signed a decree on June 23 rescinding the concession contract on the grounds of ’serious and repeated breaches’ by Metropolitano, particularly in respect of service provision, punctuality, passenger comfort and rolling stock maintenance. Under the terms of the decree, suburban concessionaires Ferrovías, Metrovías and Trenes de Buenos Aires were to form a management unit to operate the San Martín route until a new concessionaire was chosen by competitive tender.

Metropolitano has argued that the government has behaved in a discriminatory manner towards it, failing to provide the operating subsidy or investment support paid to other suburban concessionaires.