Yesterday morning, passengers set fire to the carriages of a suburban train that was held up during peak hour in Buenos Aires.
At 8am, the first carriage of the train caught fire, and the passengers escaped. But other passengers became so enraged by the delay caused by the incident that they set the carriages of a separate train on fire, and hurled rocks at it.
Both the government and the private concession that runs the train blamed the Partido Obrero, or worker’s party, and filmmaker/would-be politician Pino Solanas, whose documentary about the lamentable state of Argentina’s railways premiered the same day. Officials claim some members of the crowd – which police dispersed with rubber bullets and tear gas – carried stones and flammables in their backpacks, along with pamphlets advocating that the state take over the running of the railways.
Argentina’s once-efficient railway network is run by a private company and heavily subsidised by the government. However, incessant delays, overcrowding, robbery and assault, half-busted seats and windows that won’t close in the winter and won’t open in the summer have commuters at their wits’ end.
Adding insult to injury, some say, is the fact that the government is planning a multi-billion dollar bullet train project while the railways thousands have to use to get from the outskirts of Buenos Aires to their jobs in the capital remain in a state of total disrepair and disarray.
One government official admitted: “Seeing what happened, its seems clear that the priority for this country can’t possibly be the bullet train, while we can’t even get people from Once to Moreno [two Buenos Aires neighborhoods].”