Argentina’s government takes over Belgrano Cargas “to improve operations” – Transport secretary

Argentina’s government has taken over the management of the Belgrano Cargas freight rail line by temporarily ousting current concessionaire Soesa “in order to improve current operations,” transport secretary Alejandro Ramos told BNamericas on the sidelines of the first public works and infrastructure ministerial meeting for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) being held in Chilean capital Santiago.

“This is a decision that looks at improving operations and providing clients with better security along a railway of major importance for the country’s northwestern regions,” Ramos said.

The government published a resolution on October 25 that announced “the intervention” of the Belgrano Cargas line, giving state official Carlos Zarlenga 90 days to “constantly monitor the management activity carried on by Soesa and its compliance with its duties,” according to the document.

Within this context, Zarlenga will be relying on the support from the national transport regulation committee CNRT, the national railway infrastructure administrator ADIF and the national railway operator SOFSE.

While the initiative officially aims to straighten up the current management of the line, “we are already working to revamp rail lines for 450km, and a plan backed by the Chinese government to revamp an additional 1,400km is about to be completed,” Ramos said.

The Belgrano Cargas line has been steadily deteriorating over the last two decades. Back in the 1980s it was the backbone of the country’s freight rail transport, with a network of over 10,000km throughout the country’s fertile northeastern provinces and some 4Mt/y of goods handled. However, it transported less than 369,000t in the first six months of 2012.

President Cristina Fernández has repeatedly announced the government’s willingness to revamp the Belgrano Cargas lines.

Last April, she announced for the third time in two years, a US$11.9bn agreement with the Chinese government to renew the infrastructure and rolling stock, which will be imported from China.

The government’s temporary takeover of the line marks a new chapter in the ongoing dispute between the Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires mayor and entrepreneur Mauricio Macri, and the powerful trade union leader Hugo Moyano, local observers pointed out.

Following the removal of the Belgrano Cargas line concessionaire back in 2006, an emergency operator was established – Soesa, comprised of representatives of the public and private sector as well as union representatives. Macri and Moyano have been ruling the line ever since.

Moyano, a strategic ally of the late president Nestor Kirchner, is now rumored to be backing Mauricio Macri’s 2015 presidential bid, which would constitute a threat to President Cristina Fernandéz’s third mandate – which still has to be availed by a constitutional reform.

Source : bnamerica

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