Editor's Note: This special article about train troubles in Argentina was written by Alejandro Lezcano, who maintains the blog Hacerse Cargo [ES]. The blog is devoted to writing about concerns about public transportation in Buenos Aires.
On Monday, October 1st, President Nestor Kirchner announced the winning bid for the third high speed train in Argentina. The new train will join the city of Buenos Aires with one of the most popular tourist cities, Mar del Plata (500 km away). Last week, another winning bid had been announced for a train to link Buenos Aires with Mendoza, a popular wine-producing province (1000 km away).
The first high speed train in Argentina is the route that links Buenos Aires to the 2 other main cities in the country: Rosario and Cordoba. The train boasted a train speed of 120 km/hour, but in its first journey the average speed was much slower than advertised. TBA Me Mata [ES] described this journey:
El viaje ‘inaugural’ partió el 1º de octubre de la Estación Retiro. Llegó a Rosario 6 horas más tarde!!! Sin embargo, el viaje de vuelta logró superar la marca del anterior: 8 horas para recorrer los 300 kilómetros que separan a las dos ciudades más importantes del país. O sea, una velocidad promedio de 37.5 km/h. En el mismo lapso de tiempo, viajando en ómnibus, hubiéramos ido y regresado y hasta nos hubiese sobrado tiempo para visitar el Monumento a la Bandera, recorrer los paseos de la ribera y tomar un café en la peatonal Córdoba.
The ‘inaugural’ trip left the Retiro Station on October 1. It arrived six hours later to Rosario!!! However, the trip managed to beat the previous mark: 8 hours to travel the 300 kilometers that separate the two most important cities of the country. Meaning, that the speed averaged 37.5 km/hr. In the same lapse of time, traveling by bus, we could have gone and come back, and we would have had extra time to visit the Flag Monument, walked along the bank and had a cup of coffee in the Cordoba pedestrian walkway.
The reliability of trains is a touchy subject for many Argentines. Some of the biggest complaints are that the trains receive very little care, that they are always late, the departure time is always changing, and that there are a lot of accidents. People say that they travel as animals because there are not enough wagons for the demand and that overall service is far from ideal.
Blogs have appeared from the perspective of employees and users of the train service. Some use the blogs as a way to document their troubles with the service. Un Grano en El Orto [ES] is written by one of the workers of the Sarmiento Railway line.
Users of the General Roca line have a blog Usuarios del Ferrocarril Roca (UFR) [ES], where the site owner invites those “that want to participate in this blog with an anecdote, file or through an experience with the Roca line” to contact him. He adds, “together we can create a better TRAIN.” Some of the posts highlight the long lines to purchase tickets, free passes for some, and photos of the stations and conditions of the seats on the train.
Photo from Usuarios del Ferrocarril Roca and used with permission
Era casi una odisea sacar el pasaje. Los usuarios no podemos estar esperando mas de media hora para sacar un boleto señores. Venimos cansados de trabajar, tenes que hacer una fila inmesa y despues viajar como ganado arriba del tren, doble cansancio para el usuario. Ademas todos los argentinos con nuestros impuestos pagamos los subsidios a los ferrocarriles por ende pagamos dos veces el boleto. Mucha gente no quiere pagar por como se viaja y tiene razon en quejarse. Si uno notara que con lo que paga el tren mejora con gusto lo haria pero sabemos que hasta ahora nada cambio.
It was almost an odyssey to purchase a ticket. The users should not be waiting more than half an hour to purchase a ticket. We are tired after working and we have to stand in an immense line, then we must travel like cattle on the train. It is twice the tiredness for the user. In addition, all of the Argentines pay subsidies for the trains with our taxes, and we end up paying twice for the tiket. Many people do not want to pay for the way one has to travel and they have every reason to complain. If one could see that the train improves with the money that is paid, then gladly they would. However, we know that up until now nothing has changed.
Photos from Usuarios del Ferrocarril Roca and used with permission