After 10 years and six announcements that got nowhere, the works to make part of the Sarmiento Train line run underground finally started today. We will call it “tunneling.” In a brief rally in the district of Haedo — where the works began — President Mauricio Macri stood next to the well where the tunneling machine is located and, without pronouncing a speech, pushed the button to turn it on. “Now it has actually started,” he said right after.
The works will expand across 22.4 kilometers and include the construction of 11 new underground stations. The works are expected to be completed in four years, during which the service shouldn’t be affected.
If completed — we are allowed to be skeptical, we’ve been promised it before — the works would bring several benefits to the train line’s 200,000 daily passengers as well as all drivers who suffer its endless railroad crossing gates. Among the main ones:
- It would substantially lower the frequency between trains from 10 to three minutes and, for above ground drivers,
- It would eliminate 38 crossing gates. During rush hour, Sarmiento’s gates can be down for 29 minutes every hour, Clarín reports.
The Transportation Ministry, led by Guillermo Dietrich, announced the project will require an investment of US$3 billion, which will be financed with both international credit and sovereign funds. Moreover, it will create 2,000 direct jobs and other 8,000 linked to ensuring the provision of materials and related services go smoothly.
Macri’s reference to the works “finally” starting was a cheeky reference to the way the project was announced six times in a decade, but the tunneling machine dug its first meters today for the first time. Late president Néstor Kirchner was the first to announce the initiative in 2006 and did it once again in 2007. Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner followed the lead four more times: twice in 2008, once in 2012 and finally in 2014.
It seemed like the works would actually start in 2012 when then Interior and Transportation Minister, Florencio Randazzo, headed a rally in Haedo the day the tunneling machine started being assembled and promised to finish it by 2015. That didn’t happen either. The last announcement of the Kirchner administration came in 2014 when, after Clarín reported the tunneling was paralyzed, then Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich announced the activities would start that same year (that didn’t happen either).
Finally, President Macri made his own announcement in February this year at a rally with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Eight months later, the machine was finally turned on.