Bahia tries to maintain billionaire railway

In a further attempt to save Ferrovia de Integração Oeste-Leste (Fiol) and build at least part of the project, state of Bahia government decided to give up for now the construction of Porto Sul, a R$5.6 billion port that would be build on a secluded beach on the north coast of the city of Ilhéus (BA). The current plan is to redirect the railway final route to Malhado Port, located at the center of Ilhéus.

The plan is almost completed and, as verified by the Estado newspaper, it was already debated in a meeting between the governor of the State of Bahia, Rui Costa, and the Minister of Transports, Antônio Carlos Rodrigues.

The idea is to build a logistics center about 40 km away from Malhado pier, at the junction of Highway BR-101 and BR-116, in the city of Uruçuca. From there, Fiol cargo would be unloaded from the wagons and sent to the port by truck through a state highway.

In parallel, Bahia government is also seeking financial alternatives to try to complete at least a stretch of 500 km of the railway, work that is almost at standstill due to lack of Money of the federal government company Valec, responsible for building the railway.

Eracy Lafuente, Infrastructure and Logistics executive coordinator of the Chief of Staff Office said Bahia government has talked to private investors to convince them to join Fiol and complete the work. In return, the investor could make commercial operation of the railway and of the Malhado Port. “We are negotiating it; two foreigner investors are already interested on that possibility” he affirmed.

Return. According to Lafuente, this new plan the Bahia government adopted does not mean that the Porto Sul project was abandoned. “We did not lose the need for a transport with great movement, which is directly linked to the construction of Porto Sul.”

“The strategy of using Malhado can actually be a way to speed up the new port, as it allows the investor to have an immediate return,” Lafuente said.

The difficulty of making feasible Fiol new route is in high urban density of Ilhéus, a city that already suffers from irregular occupations, including in areas near of Malhado Port.

Bahia government spent years and tens of millions of reais to obtain the environmental licensing of Porto Sul. The works did not begin until today. Fiol is a 1500 km project, which has already consumed R$3 billion and has no date to be completed.

Budget. The railway started in 2010 and was expected to be completed in 2013. Today, it is said to be delivered in 2018, but there is no guarantee, effectively, of this happening. Meanwhile, its budget has increased from R$4.3 billion to R$6.5 billion.

In order to the business does not went to freefall once and for all, Bahia government hopes to make feasible, at a first step, at least the final route of the line that connects the cities of Ilhéus and Caetité, where there is promise of one day to deploy a large iron ore project.

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