First high speed train at a high risk cost: Argentina

tren.jpgConstruction of the first high speed rail link in America will take place in Argentina, connecting the cities of Buenos Aires, Rosario and Cordoba. A contract has been made with Alstom and partners, Iecsa, Isolux Corsan and Emepa, which will see the rail link accommodating trains operating up to 320 km/hr.
The national government and other proponents of the plan envisage a positive influence for economic development in the region. It is hoped that the project will revive the railway system of Argentina, which has suffered extensively since the wave of privatization that occurred in the 90s. Furthermore, it will offer an attractive travel mode for tourists in the region.
However, there are many risks associated with the success of the project, namely the cost of travel which is

“disproportionately expensive relative to the number of people who will benefit from it”

(Poder Ciudadano in Spanish)
The prices are not comparable to the bus system which moves the majority of people between these cities and is not likely to replace air traffic travel either. People in Argentina are questioning the usefulness of the link, as it will be unfordable for most and because there is a desperate need to address other infrastructure issues nationwide.

Poder Ciudadano, which is the Argentine arm of the world wide anti-corruption NGO Transparency International, has criticised the project for the expense but as well for the apparent misuse of funds away from critical areas, such as the under-funded Buenos Aires metropolitan rail-service, the Subte. Other identified gaps in infrastructure, limited only to the rail sector, are the lack of rail transport from port districts and inter-province connections.
The project is scheduled to commence this year, but it seems likely that localised protest could evolve which would hinder progress. Ultimately, the national transport infrastructure system is dilapidated and currently the source of many traffic incidents, with bus accidents a high occurrence across the nation. For this, any move towards a safer form of cross national travel could be positive, but should be made affordable to the country’s people and not just to the few tourists and wealthy class groups.