Santa Teresa cable car accident turns 10 and marks

Several acts this Friday (27) mark the 10th anniversary of the death of six people, including driver Nelson, in an accident with a tram in Santa Teresa, in the central region of Rio de Janeiro. Residents, popular movements and politicians also demand governor Cláudio Castro (PSC) for the return of tram lines. Some sections have been disabled since the accident in 2011.

The Santa Teresa tram has been in existence since the second half of the 19th century – working first by animal traction and for over 100 years with an electrified system. The means of transport has already been honored in songs and poems, such as this one by Carlos Drummond de Andrade: “My brigantine diary, my airplane, my private house open to the people, I greet you, I thank you; and standing in the stirrup, clinging to the baluster, modest as it is, I make you illustrious”.

Despite its fame and its listing in 1984 by the State Historical Heritage, the days that followed the accident, on August 27, 2011, witnessed the negligence and crime of state authorities with the neighborhood’s trams. Last week, a public hearing brought together different social segments to map the errors in search of solutions for the functioning of the cable car.

Read more: In Rio, cable car from Santa Teresa will cost R$ 20

The court decisions contrary to the actions of the state government and the State Transport and Logistics Engineering Company (Central), which administers the service, date back to 2012, one year after the accident. At the time, the Court gave an injunction to suspend a bidding notice for not presenting a basic plan for implementing the system and for disrespecting the acts of overturning the cable cars.

At the hearing, which took place online, a representative of the Public Ministry recalled that a 2009 court ruling, before the accident, was appealed by the government of Rio. , by determining an inspection and suspending the effectiveness of a fine for non-compliance with the timetables contained in the judgment until there was a forecast of completion of the works.

“We have questioned the judicial expertise on several occasions and we are trying to execute the command of the sentence, which is what we have in concrete, but we need to go beyond this phase. The expert repeats the generic terms of a 2013 contract with the obligations of the reforms by the State. We were unable to reach an agreement on what this expertise could bring to the command of executing the sentence,” said prosecutor Felipe Cuesta during the debate.

“Business” of the State

President of the Association of Residents of Santa Teresa (Amast), Paulo Saad has been gathering data for at least 10 years and has arguments to criticize the state government. According to the representative of the neighborhood, the government “preferred to do business” instead of putting the trams back on the tracks. Among the offenses committed, there is the disposal of trams listed as cultural heritage, which were taken out of circulation and dismantled in Três Rios, a municipality in the state of Rio.

“When the ruling came out ordering the government to restore the trams pending renovation within 60 days, the government preferred to do business. It made hysteria about the safety of the tram, which has been circulating for 100 years, suspended the service and we had, with that, six years of delay. Even today, there are places, like Largo das Neves, that haven’t seen trams for 10 years”, points out Saad.

When it comes to the safety of trams, the opinion of the residents of Santa Teresa and those who have always used transport is usually unanimous. Saad is often accompanied when he claims that the government has put into circulation “tram simulations” and that the old ones were not unsafe. At the time of the death of driver Nelson, who still managed to save dozens of people who were on the tram, the government at the time tried to blame the accident on an alleged “human error”.

Fee of BRL 20

In 2018, a Parliamentary Inquiry Commission (CPI) at the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro (Alerj) to investigate complaints in public transport concluded, in a report prepared by Deputy Eliomar Coelho (Psol), that there was a lack of maintenance of the system for years on end , which culminated in the accident with the death of six people.

The CPI also asked for the extinction of the R$20 tourist tax on the Santa Teresa tram, but the government did not accept the report.

Among other accusations, Amast blames the state government for reducing the supply of trams to residents, workers and tourists. According to the neighborhood association, there were more than 12 trams and today there are six, with another two being used as auxiliaries.

The CPI found in 2018: “Today, there are five supposedly modernized trams in operation, three of which circulate, one is under maintenance and one is in reserve, in a path of just over 2 km between the main station, in downtown Rio, and Largo dos Guimarães, in Santa Teresa”.

Among the demands of the commission’s final report at Alerj was the extinction of the R$20 tourist tariff, but the direction was never met by the state government.

According to Amast, it doesn’t help to remember that the residents of Santa Teresa – only those registered – have free access to transportation. The fee of R$20, says the representative of the residents’ association, “excludes it as an option for urban transport” and “transforms the tram into a tourist attraction, such as the Pão de Açúcar cable car and the Corcovado train”.

In addition to the cost, the low number of trams circulating and the restricted hours from 10 am to 3 pm give the transport its tourist character. Among the claims, residents of Santa Teresa want the operating day to be from 6 am to 11 pm. “The tram runs every 30 minutes and almost always has no place for the resident. We want the tram for the people, the elderly, the students,” says Saad.


Privatization is another ghost that threatens public transport that is a symbol of the Rio neighborhood. In the latter, the poor service provided by the modal made minibuses go up the winding streets of Santa Teresa. But the number of buses on the streets is scarce and service has worsened over the past two years because of the pandemic. On the pages of residents on social networks there are complaints.

The CPI report maps the steps taken by the state government to precipitate tram privatization:

“This lack of resources, especially in the period between 2007 and 2014, when the state received numerous contributions from the federal government and had ample access to credit, including international, can be classified, therefore, as a major government project, which was already envisioned, there has been a disqualification of the tram as a form of public transport for a long time.”

This Friday’s schedule will remember the 10 years of the accident with six dead and more than 50 injured / Reproduction

A recent government notice proposed the privatization of transport, also excluding the Paula Mattos branch, considered important for many residents and whose path has been interrupted since the time of the accident. In the privatizing proposal, the tram goes to Silvestre station to make the connection with the already privatized Corcovado tram. 15 years ago there was another attempt to deliver the modal to the private sector.

Another line of action advocates that the topic be taken to the mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes (PSD), in order for him to be sensitive to the neglect and municipalize the trams, understanding that this is one of the main characteristics of one of the most visited in Rio and one of the strongest postcards of the capital of Rio de Janeiro.

“This integration of the state with the municipality is fundamental. The City Hall has to join this battle, the entire City Council, it is a broad front for the common good for the population and for those who visit Santa Teresa as well. Only with pressure can we avoid privatization , only with a lot of struggle can we rescue the cable car, which has been criminally mistreated,” argued during the public hearing, councilor Chico Alencar (Psol), who lives in the neighborhood.

what the government says

The representative of the State Department of Transport (Setrans-RJ), Pedro Castilho, said that the government took over the presidency of Central RJ, which administers the service, on the 5th. According to him, it is only now that “they have begun to take note of the situation, especially regarding the final and unappealable action of the sentence”, he said, referring to the judicial determinations paralyzed by resources of the State itself.

According to the representative of Setrans-RJ, the tram had 418 thousand passengers in 2018 and that in 2021 this number will not reach 70 thousand. He stated, however, that the secretariat will study the expansion of hours, without denying that there will be new privatization attempts.

“We are not going to measure our efforts with regard to the good provision of services, whether the governor further takes the initiative to privatize or not.”

Source: BoF Rio de Janeiro

Edition: Mariana Pitasse

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