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Latino Daily News

Wednesday February 29, 2012

Argentine Government Takes Over Train Operator After Deadly Crash

The Argentine government announced on Tuesday the “temporary and preventive” takeover of commuter rail operator Trenes de Buenos Aires amid harsh criticism by relatives of the victims of the rail accident that left 50 commuters dead here last week.

Officials will take “administrative, technical and operational” control of TBA to “guarantee the safety” of riders, according to the government decree.

The intervention will last for 15 days or as long as it takes for authorities to complete the judicial investigation to clarify responsibility for one of Argentina’s worst-even rail accidents.

An eight-car train entered the Once station, one of the busiest in the capital, at 8:30 a.m. last Wednesday at a speed of 26 kph (16 mph) and slammed into the barrier at the end of the platform.

The train, which was en route from the suburb of Moreno to Buenos Aires, was packed with some 1,500 morning commuters,

The incident highlighted the insecure nature of commuter rail, political negligence and the lack of state control over the management of concessionaire TBA, which employs more than 4,500 people.

TBA is the property of the Cirigliano brothers, who control one of the country’s most powerful transportation groups and who have been linked with officials currently being investigated for corruption such as Ricardo Jaime, the transportation secretary under late President Nestor Kirchner, the husband and predecessor of incumbent head of state Cristina Fernandez.

The decision to take over TBA came after severe criticism of the Fernandez administration by relatives of the crash victims and by leaders of the opposition.

“The tragedy, although the causes are not known, forces measures to be taken,” Planning Minister Julio De Vido said Tuesday.

According to official calculations, about 500,000 people rely on TBA trains to reach their jobs in Buenos Aires.

The investigation is focusing on mechanical conditions on board the train, built by Toshiba in 1960, and on the actions of 28-year-old motorman Marcos Antonio Cordoba, who was seriously injured in the crash and, according to union spokesmen, has been kept handcuffed during his stay in the hospital.