São Paulo Diary: The Great Smoking Hole of Pinheiros, One Year On

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Dilemma: The evidence must be covered with a concrete retaining wall to ensure the safety of the inspection team — while work continues.

Miss Hoover: I hear those things are awfully loud…
Lyle Lanley: It glides as softly as a cloud.
Apu: Is there a chance the track could bend?
Lyle Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend.
Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs?
Lyle Lanley: You’ll be given cushy jobs.
Abe: Were you sent here by the devil?
Lyle Lanley: No, good sir, I’m on the level.

The one-year anniversary of the collapse of an excavation on the World Bank-funded Line 4 subway extension here in our zone of São Paulo generally focused on the fact that the technical report by the IPT and the state police criminalistics lab, due in October, will not be out until March.

TV cameras went around to areas where the excavation has passed under, documenting big old gnarly cracks in foundations and interviewing despairing property owners and residents.

I read that the World Bank is also looking into the causes of the accident, but cannot find any information on that inquiry on its Web site — just the report issued by the Metrô authority here on the Smoking Hole incident at the time, which is not terribly informative.

The Springfield monorail (The Simpsons Episode 9F10) comes inevitably to mind. In this case, however, you have a big, crazy, mixed-up city run by Quimby –and a Metrô new projects division also run by Quimby. Yes, one of those Quimbys.

See also

This is a one-source, press released-based opinion piece by proxy from A Tarde in Salvador, Bahia — an interesting little paper that seems to have dreams of competing with the Estado and Folha de S. Paulo in the “national metrosexual daily” category.

Um ano após o acidente ocorrido na futura Estação Pinheiros da Linha 4 do Metrô de São Paulo, a liderança do PT na Assembléia Legislativa acusa o governador do Estado, José Serra (PSDB), de não ter esclarecido dúvidas que pairam sobre a obra desde a licitação até a atual fase de construção. De acordo com o deputado estadual Simão Pedro, líder do PT na Casa, o partido continuará a exigir a instauração de uma Comissão Parlamentar de Inquérito (CPI) para apurar as causas e responsabilidades pela tragédia, que vitimou sete pessoas.

A year after the accident at the future Pinheiros Station on the Line 4 of the São Paulo subway system, the leadership of the PT in the state legislative assembly is accusing the state governor, José Serra, of not having dispelled the doubts that have plagued the project from the bidding process and on into the actual construction. According to state deputy Simão Pedro, leader of the PT in the House, the party will continue to demand a parliamentary commission of inquiry (CPT) into the causes and responsibilities for the tragedy, which killed seven.

And some of the news media here had the gall to call it “the São Paulo 9/11.”

Which killed some 3,000 people right off the bat.

Some of whose unrecovered body parts are still floating to the surface.

Please. Enough with the hysterical virgin act already.

“O governador José Serra está sendo negligente ao não rever o contrato da Linha 4, que está trazendo prejuízos enormes aos cofres do Estado”, afirmou, em nota. “A CPI pode ajudar o Ministério Público, o Tribunal de Contas e a Polícia Civil nas apurações das responsabilidades dos envolvidos. A tragédia foi resultado de uma política de sobrepor ao interesse público os lucros de grupos privados”, disse.

“Governor Serra is being negligent in not reviewing the Line 4 contract, which is costing the public treasury,” he said in a press release. “A CPI could help the prosecutor’s office, the state accounting tribunal (TCU) and the state police in identifying the responsible parties. The tragedy was the result of a police of putting the profits of private firms over the public interest,” he said.

Na avaliação do deputado, o atraso nas obras vai prejudicar um milhão de usuários por dia previstos para utilizar a linha. Simão pede ainda que o Tribunal de Contas apure o depósito de R$ 92,3 milhões, de um total de R$ 180 milhões, feito pelo governo no dia 7 de dezembro, para promover o equilíbrio financeiro do contrato. Para ele, trata-se de “uma grande farsa”, pois o pagamento a mais ao consórcio teria sido realizado a título de indenização pela mudança do método construtivo de shield (tatuzão) para NATM (que utiliza explosivos).

In Simão’s view, the delay in delivering the project will affect the one million users per day predicted for the line. Simão is also asking the TCU to look into a R$92.3 million deposit, out of a total of R$180 million, made by the state government on December 7, to promote the financial stability of the contract. In his view, this is “a huge farce” because the extra payment to the Yellow Line Consortium was made under the rubric of compensation for the change in construction method from the shield method (the “Big Armadillo” excavator) to NATM, which uses explosives.


It has been delayed for one year after two segments of the tunneling failed to meet up within the required tolerances. But not necessarily because of that. Or so I thought I understood from reading between the lines of the scant coverage of this development — in which the degree of failure to meet up generated the usual dueling numbers.

(Current dueling numbers issue: Quantifying the risk of blackouts and rationing given the state of regional hydroelectric reserves, after the backup fossil-fuel generators were cut in the other day.)

“Esses R$ 180 milhões que o Consórcio Via Amarela está cobrando como uma indenização pela mudança do método construtivo não faz sentido, uma vez que o método NATM é mais barato em comparação ao shield. Na verdade, a indenização é para cobrir o custo da obra. Quando o Metrô aceitou o preço do Via Amarela, era um preço inexeqüível, ou seja, com aquele valor, o consórcio não teria condições de entregar a obra pronta”, acusa o deputado.

“These R$180 million that the CVA is charging as compensation for the change in construction method makes no sense, given that the NATM method is cheaper than the shield method. In fact, the payment is designed to cover the costs of construction. When the Metrô authority accepted the CVA’s bid, it was a nonviable price. That is to say, at that price, the consortium would not be able to deliver the project, ready for use,” the lawmaker charges.

Well, I will have to study up on that issue before venturing to opine.

Completion of the Rodoanel traffic interchange project — a Malufian boondoogle started unde Mario “The Last Honest Man in Brazilian Politics” Covas — the completion of the Yellow Line, and the addition of Line 5 (Zona Sul) really would make life here a lot better for a lot of people, so it would be insane to root against them actually getting done (right).

But given that the Yellow Line affects us most directly — it will massively rejigger the human flow in our part of town — we are definitely in a WTF mood on the issue, and tend to feel the powers that be tend to confuse infrastructure development with cosmetic surgery. See

File under “public works, the political silly season and” and “half-sunk, a shatter’d visage lies.”

See also

“On being a businessman: The thoughts of Norberto Odebrecht.” The key: invest heavily in, ahem, proactive risk transfer.


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