Santiago's public transport system at full capacity - Bachelet

Monday, November 17, 2014

Santiago's public transport system is operating at full capacity, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said.

Her comments come after a power failure resulted in the closure of three key metro lines on Friday – leading to the worst service disruptions in the subway network's history. Hundreds of thousands of passengers were affected.

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And on Monday morning passengers faced disrupted journeys again following a separate incident, this time involving trains' control systems.

Passengers were also hit by service disruptions in August after state company Metro de Santiago had to turn customers away because of a power blackout and track problems.

Following Friday's line shutdown Metro de Santiago president Aldo González resigned and was replaced by Rodrigo Azócar.

Government and opposition lawmakers have asked transport minister Andrés Gómez-Lobo to step down.

"We've got a transport system working at the limit of its capacity," Bachelet said in a speech.

Santiago's public transport problems have been a headache for Bachelet since her first administration (2006-2010).

In 2007 she launched, to much fanfare, a huge transport system called Transantiago, designed to improve residents' daily commute by reducing the number of buses circulating, reorganizing routes and improving connections with metro lines.

But taking buses off the streets in several neighborhoods only angered residents, who claimed that things had gotten worse instead of better.

Seven years later, Transantiago has cost Chileans over US$10bn in subsidies, and bus and metro services in the city have deteriorated.

According to an Adimark poll, 71% of Chileans disapprove of Bachelet's public transport policies.

The government recently announced a US$4.2bn investment in new public transport systems countrywide, including another metro line in Santiago.

An average 2.5mn passengers use Santiago's metro system each day, while another 3.5mn use the city's buses.