SITUATED on the Atlantic coast of São Paulo state, Santos grew to prominence as the global gateway for Brazil's coffee exports and today the city remains an important hub for international trade as South America's largest sea port.

The nine districts that make up the Santos metropolitan area have a total population of 1.7 million, with around 2.2 million daily trips on the city's transport network. The proportion of trips made by private cars increased from 21% in 2007 to 26% in 2012 and Santos suffers from the chronic traffic congestion and pollution that blights many Brazilian cities.

São Paulo's state government is seeking to address the problem with its Integrated Metropolitan System (SIM), an enhanced public transport network for the São Paulo metropolitan region which includes light rail for Santos.

Construction began in May 2013 on the first phase, an 11km east-west line from Porto to São Vicente and Barreiros Terminal. Preliminary public services are expected to start this month, when passengers will be offered free rides on the completed central stretch of the line between Mascarenhas de Moraes in São Vicente municipality and Pinheiro Machado in Santos. Further sections of the Porto - Barreiros line are nearing completion and São Paulo Urban Transport Company (EMTU) said in mid-February that 90% of construction work has been completed in São Vicente and 50% in Santos.

Civil works on the Reais 850m ($US 300m) project are being carried out by Consórcio Expresso VLT Baixada Santista, a consortium of Brazilian construction companies Queiroz Galvão and Trail Infraestrutura, while the electrical and mechanical contract was awarded to a consortium of Adtranz Engenharia, Brascontrol, Ferreira Guedes, and TTrans.

In June 2013 TTrans subcontracted Thales to supply signalling and control systems, fixed and mobile communications, data transmission, multimedia solutions and the electronic traffic monitoring system for Phase 1. Vossloh is supplying rail fastenings and switches and crossings for the project.

Santos-IMGP3023The fleet of 22 bi-directional Tramlink low-floor LRVs is being supplied by Tremvia Santos, a consortium of TTrans and Vossloh Spain, under a Reais 252m contract awarded in December 2012. The first vehicle was delivered last May and dynamic testing began on the 1km Mascarenhas de Morais - Nossa Senhora das Graças section in August. The first three of the seven-section vehicles were built at the Vossloh Rail Vehicles plant at Albuixech near Valencia in Spain, with the remaining 19 being assembled in Brazil by TTrans at its Três Rios facility in Rio de Janeiro state.

By mid-February two vehicles were in use for commissioning and four vehicles will be required to operate services on the initial section when it opens. The remaining 18 vehicles are due to be delivered to Santos by December and 20 vehicles will be required to operate the full service with two maintenance spares.

Each 43.7m-long 2.65m-wide LRV will accommodate up to 408 passengers (6 passengers/m²), 74 of them seated, and the vehicles are equipped with batteries for catenary-free operation on a 440m-long section of the route in the city centre.

The line will have a peak capacity of 7000 passengers per hour per direction with a commercial speed of 25km/h. Peak services are expected to operate at 3.5-minute headways. EMTU says the first phase will indirectly benefit all municipalities of the city by reducing pollution, noise, and journey times between districts, with projected savings of Reais 21m per year from reductions in accidents and road maintenance.

With the opening of the line the bus network will be restructured and the number of bus routes in Santos will be reduced from 52 to 32. Phase 1 of the LRT network is expected to carry 30,000 passengers per day when the Porto - Barreiros line is fully operational, and the line will be fully integrated into the broader SIM network serving the São Paulo metropolitan region.

Second phase

Environmental approval is currently being sought for the Reais 250m second phase of the network, a 4km branch running north from Conselheiro Nébias to Valongo in Santos and expressions of interest will be requested in the second quarter of this year for the project, which also includes three additional stations on the Porto - Barreiros line. Phase 2 is expected to increase ridership on the network to around 70,000 passengers per day.

In the longer-term it is planned to extend the branch west to form a loop, which would rejoin the Porto - Barreiros line at Antonio Emmerick station in São Vicente.

Preliminary design has also been completed on Phase 3, a four-station 7.5km western extension to Samaritá in São Vicente. An environmental impact assessment is currently underway on this Reais 320m project.

With further light rail lines planned, the network is expected to reach 55km by 2030.