Rio's New Light Rail System Suffers Embarrassing Electrical Failure

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Just one day after its inauguration, Rio de Janeiro’s new Light Rail System (VLT) suffered an electrical failure, striking yet another blow to the city’s efforts to showcase its preparedness for the upcoming Olympic Games.

The power outage on Monday temporarily halted service and required passengers to disembark one of the trains. The system was inaugurated in a highly publicized event on Sunday, in what was considered a final test run before regular service began this week.

The inauguration had previously been scheduled to take place on May 22nd, but was delayed to accommodate additional preparations.

The Light Rail System has been a central component of the redevelopment of the Port Zone, one of the prominent Olympic legacy projects for the city. The 28km-long system will host eight trains traveling between 42 stations, connecting transit centers such as the Santos Dumont Airport and the Novo Rio bus terminal with the city’s financial district. Mayor Eduardo Paes has upheld the VLT as an example of Olympic infrastructure that will largely benefit residents rather than tourists, insisting that the system will alleviate the city center’s notorious traffic congestion.

While Monday’s incident does not appear to have had a lasting impact on VLT service, it does reinforce concerns surrounding the city’s ability to complete new transportation projects before the Opening Ceremony on August 5th. The inauguration of the fourth line of the metro has been repeatedly delayed and is now scheduled to open on August 1st, just four days before the Games start. The extension of the metro is considered crucial for Olympics, as it will connect the Olympic Park and Olympic Village in Barra da Tijuca with the popular tourist districts of Ipanema and Copacabana.

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