EFVM passenger train in Brazil (Photo: Vale)

BRAZIL: A political lobby group has been set up to put the case for rail within the country’s political institutions and national organisations. Launched in Brasilia on June 19, the Parliamentary Front for Strengthening the Brazilian Railway Industry was endorsed by 209 deputies.

Vicente Abate, President of the Brazilian Railway Industry Association, described the launch as a ‘milestone’ in the history of Brazil’s rail sector. President of the new body Pedro Uzcai said that it had two major objectives: to improve relevant legislation through the Brazilian Parliament and National Congress and to establish a dialogue with federal government. ‘The railway is cheaper, safer, environmentally sustainable transport and induces development wherever it goes, even contributing to other modes’, he said.

Vice-President of the Interstate Union of Rail & Road Materials & Equipment Industry Massimo Giavina highlighted concerns within Brazil’s railway industry about equipment imported from other countries, especially China. Arguing that local industry delivered cutting-edge technology but could not compete with Chinese imports on price, he said there was a 37% difference because of subsidies and exemptions on import taxes. ‘You need equipment that lasts 30 years, spare parts and maintenance, which does not happen with the foreign industry today; trains are lacking parts and are scrapped within 10 years.’

Federal Deputy Denise Pessôa said she had been ‘won over’ by the case for rail. Noting that it was essential to highlight how much logistics impacts products and competitiveness, she added ‘we know how under-utilised the railway industry is, and not because there is no demand’. She said many wagons running in Brazil were very old and ‘fleet renewal is urgent’, so ‘we need to discuss this’.

The launch meeting agreed a set of priorities for the local rail sector:

1. replace wagons and locomotives more than 50 years old with rolling stock offering ‘sustainable technological innovations’; this would save 58 million tonnes of fuel and reduce CO2 emissions by 150 000 tonnes per year;

2. generate employment and income for Brazilians;

3. include the railway industry in the Mobilidade Verde e Inovação decarbonisation programme launched by the Ministry of Development, Industry, Trade & Services and obtain financing and incentives from the Brazilian Development Bank and the Climate Fund;

4. generate more foreign exchange by deploying higher capacity wagons for ores, grains, fertilisers, cellulose and containerised cargo;

5. achieve greater environmental sustainability, and lower greenhouse gas emissions, notably through ‘digitalised’ locomotives and new wagons designs;

6. reduce logistics costs and improve energy efficiency;

7. apply environmental, social and governance policies in the rail industry production chain;

8. secure equal tax treatment to make rail comparable with other transport modes;

9. support the transport ministry’s policy of increasing rail’s share of the Brazilian freight transport market from the current 27% to 40% by 2035.