Chile and Brazil

On the right track: Marcopolo using LatAm rail momentum to line up more tenders

Bnamericas Published: Friday, January 20, 2023
On the right track: Marcopolo using LatAm rail momentum to line up more tenders

Marcopolo Rail, the light rail unit of Brazilian coach manufacturer Marcopolo is planning to expand its activity across Latin America as it sees momentum building in the rail industry and passenger numbers close to returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The company already signed some new contracts in the region last year and is on the hunt for more tenders this year. 

In May it signed a deal with the Aerogru consortium to supply the trains that will be part of the people mover rail train system that connects Brazil's largest airport, Guarulhos in São Paulo state, with urban train line No. 13, and in December 2022, it won a contract to supply three two-car formations of its Prosper model to Chilean firm EFE Trenes de Chile. 

Petras Amaral Santos, head of Marcopolo Rail, speaks with BNamericas about the company's plans and expectations for the passenger transport segment.

BNamericas: How is Marcopolo Rail currently organized? What does the company produce now and what is its production capacity?

Santos: Marcopolo Rail is the business unit specialized in the development and production of railroad [vehicles and equipment] in the Marcopolo group.

We produce multiple units, passenger cars and boxes for people movers, tram and EMU [electric multiple unit] systems, in addition to having a special projects division for the maintenance and modernization of existing systems. Our production capacity is currently adequate for our orders and market demand.

BNamericas: Speaking specifically about the Brazilian market, which regions of the country offer the greatest business potential for you?

Santos: We are able to serve the different regions of the country and we see that Brazil has the possibility of considerably expanding access to metro-railway systems.

Data show that the railroads associated with the national association of rail transporters, ANTF, invested more than 85bn reais [US$16.5bn] between 1997 and 2021.

In 2021, there were 3,297 locomotives circulating in the country. The number of jobs also increased and more than 41,000 professionals are working in the sector. The data reinforce the positive momentum of the Brazilian train market.

BNamericas: Regarding the market potential outside Brazil, in which countries does Marcopolo sees the greatest business potential? Can you mention any specific projects or initiatives in those countries?

Santos: We are always paying attention to international movements related to the rail vehicle segment. We have real opportunities to expand our operations through the Latin American market, with participation in tenders, as is the case of our recent announcement, in December 2022, about the supply of three two-car train formations for EFE Trenes de Chile, a public company responsible for managing the Chilean rail network.

In May 2022, we also signed a contract to supply the trains that will be used for the people mover system at Guarulhos international airport with the Aerogru consortium.

BNamericas: What is Marcopolo Rail's projection for investments in 2023?

Santos: The company doesn't disclose future investments, but what I can share is that, like Marcopolo S.A, which is a Brazilian company with a strong presence in Brazil and abroad, Marcopolo Rail also works to expand its operations in the national and international market, given the marketing expertise of our mother company and mainly because of our ability to adapt vehicles to the different conditions and requirements of each country.

BNamericas: Marcopolo Rail currently accounts for what proportion of the Marcopolo group's revenues and, in your view, how much could that figure reach in the coming years?

Santos: Just like the other business units of the company, we are part of a general group and we don't break down proportions of revenues separately. What we can say is that the new modes [of rolling stock], including the vehicles produced by Marcopolo Rail, are essential for the company's growth, with a greater diversity of offers for mobility and collective passenger transport.

BNamericas: We have seen greater worldwide demand for more environmentally-friendly measures, use of renewable energies, how have these shifts affected the urban transport industry? Do you see big cities changing the urban transport matrixes to greener ones? What types of vehicles/models are likely to gain more momentum in this scenario and which ones will tend to lose ground?

Santos: At Marcopolo S.A there is a focus on vehicle sustainability. Given this context, Marcopolo Rail is also seeking solutions to expand vehicle production, focusing on more efficient products with lower emissions of polluting gases.

We have invested in technological partnerships and will soon have new propulsion options, including hybrid and electric versions.

BNamericas: The urban mobility sector, both in Brazil and abroad, was one of those most impacted by the effects of the pandemic due to the drop in passenger numbers. Have passenger volumes recovered to pre-pandemic now or, if not, how long will it take?

Santos: I understand that the economic recovery and the return of passengers to the streets help to produce positive perspectives for the passenger transport sector and for rail transport.

In the case of rail operations, pre-pandemic levels will be reached in almost all countries in 2023. We also have a positive outlook regarding investments in high-capacity public transport modes for the coming years.

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