A privatized and highly subsidized train industry in Argentina has left few accountable for safety and oversight. A deadly commuter train crash Wednesday was the eighth since 2008.
A commuter train crash yesterday – the latest in eight rail accidents in Argentina since 2008 – is shining a light on the government's unaddressed transportation problems and poor regulatory standards.
The Buenos Aires metropolitan train system was privatized in 1991 as the government faced budgetary pressure due to a deep fiscal crisis. Four private companies took over and were responsible for the seven lines serving the Buenos Aires area. But these companies largely failed to expand and improve transportation services after taking the helm, and the Buenos Aires train system has slowly deteriorated over the past two decades.
The exact cause of Wednesday’s crash is still under investigation, but it reflects the dire state of the Argentine rail system. An estimated 50 people died and nearly 700 were injured in yesterday's accident. Services including upgrades and safety checks to the Sarmiento Line train, which failed to brake yesterday as it entered the Once Station, were deemed “acceptable,” said Roque Cirigliano, director of Trenes de Buenos Aires (TBA), the company responsible for the crashed train.
"We've invested more than a lot of the other train companies," Mr. Cirigliano said.
Some find Cirigliano’s statement worrying. A 2008 report issued by the National Auditor’s office found numerous deficiencies in trains operated by TBA. The shortcomings listed include a lack of emergency brakes and inoperable hand brakes.