Nevertheless, Brazil's network is now carrying 87.6% more traffic than it was at privatisation in 1997.

In terms of tonne-km, Brazilian concessionaires performed better, registering a 4.3% increase last year to 290.5 billion, but still below target as they expected to achieve 315.1 billion tonne-km in 2011.

The star performer last year was container traffic, which rose by 23.7% to 287,458 TEUs, although 2010 was the only year since 1997 to register a fall in container shipments. ANTF says that Brazilian railways are now carrying 82 times more TEUs than in 1997.

Despite the relatively poor traffic performance, the concessionaires increased investment last year by 56.3% to Reais 4.6bn ($US 2.44bn). According to ANTF, the concessionaires had 3045 locomotives and 100,924 freight wagons last year, but Mr Rodrigo Vilaça, ANTF's executive director, says the concessionaires need to add another 2000 locomotives and 40,000 wagons to their fleets by 2020 to keep up with the expected growth in traffic.

Finally, 2011 was a good year for safety as the number of accidents per million train-km dropped to an all-time low of 14.2, compared with 75.5 in 1997.