This Friday thousands of people focused their attention on TV and their networks shocked by a new train accident. It is logical. In our country, a massacre occurred inside a railway terminal, in Once. The first images were strong. Twisted irons, ambulances, wounded. The first medical report stated that there were about 100 injured, 30 in “code red”, but no deaths until that moment.

A few minutes ago, Alejandro Alvite had finished leading a formation a few kilometers from the accident. He has been driving trains for 27 years and the news that came to him from the control also shocked him. On the one hand, his concern for his colleagues and passengers. On the other hand, the feeling that it was something that could happen at some point. He knows the viaduct area, the curves and countercurves. But he has also been denouncing that for months they have been driving with the signal system disconnected, “I walk with 20 eyes.”

In this interview he explains why the crash is hardly accidental: it is the chronicle of an announced crime. The responsibility of the State, the complicity of the union leaders and the maneuvers for privatization. A privatization that brings negotiations, higher rates and worse services, as history shows. Furthermore, as a member of the National Movement for the Recovery of Argentine Railways, he thinks what the solution is.

“For months it has been working with the signaling system directly disconnected”

First, tell us there as a worker, as a machinist, what do you know about the accident? Why was it?

In the sector that is involved in this incident, between Palermo and Retiro, on that viaduct, it has been working for months with the signaling system directly disconnected. The signals remain at danger or off. It has been working like this for months. It is not the only sector of the line that is in these conditions. What happens is that an agreement has been reached between the company, the Railway Union and La Fraternidad to accept working under these conditions, replacing the security and blocking system with an agreement between the parties and a notification they give you to enter. to the sector. They use an article of the operating regulations that allows work in “total isolation zones.” But this is not the case. The problem here is that the signs do not work due to lack of maintenance. It is true that the cables have been stolen on several occasions, but there is a lack of investment here. It is really terrible because, for example, they claim that they do not have cement to cover the cables. Then they can’t put the cables back on the floor because they have no way to cover them, which is a shame and a lack of respect for common sense. But this is one of the examples.

The problem here is that the signs do not work due to lack of maintenance.

And then I can give you other points on the line where the signals also remain off or in danger and you work in those conditions daily. This has been denounced by different sectors. From us in driving, but also signaling personnel, maintenance personnel. But it turns a deaf ear. And the agreement between the unions and the company supports this.

And it’s not that one wants to eliminate services. What they say is that you have to agree on this because if not you will be left without train service. And it is not like that. What you have to do is agree on a train service that has moderately decent service for the passenger, but you are increasing the ticket week by week.

And on the other hand, you have to give them a service according to their needs. And the truth is that that is not happening. The service is getting worse, security conditions are being violated more and more and the consequences are visible.

Tell us what this degradation of service has been like in recent times

In reality, the lack of investment in companies has been going on for years. Already during the government of Mauricio Macri this was noted, because he also already had a privatization plan. That did not improve much during the management of Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández. The truth is that there was no great improvement, and this went much further into the interior in this last administration, where we reached a point where, for example, there were days when they did not have fuel to give to the locomotives so that the trains could leave. , to cite an extreme example.

There are no spare parts, there is no type of input, but there is also no will to carry out the tasks that in some cases must be carried out to provide at least a sense of security to daily work. This comes as a consequence of the emptying, and we also believe that it is a decision to stop deteriorating the service to justify privatization.

It’s like they say “the management of the State does not work”, “we give to them and they don’t do what they have to do”, and it is not true. The money is not coming in. The truth is that the management has been quite bad in what has to do with administration and management, but in recent times, the truth is that the emptying is very evident. There is a lack of personnel, there is a lack of spare parts, there is a lack of supplies and there is a lack of work. And on top of that, there are people who are fighting for privatization and layoffs of workers. The truth is that there is not a very promising perspective in this sense.

It is a decision to stop deteriorating the service to justify privatization.

What is it like to work in such complex driving conditions, knowing that you are carrying people?

Today we were talking about it with my partner precisely, because we work as two, driver and assistant, and the truth is that one does not work very comfortably every day. And he gets used to working in these conditions knowing that there could be a failure at any moment. And this is not new. On Tuesday, without going any further, there was a derailment in Retiro because a train derailed on the track, the formation. Fortunately it had no passengers and they were doing maneuvers, but they prevented the trains from entering for three hours.

This means that the deterioration is seen in all areas. And we, who work at dawn, many hours at night, the truth is that we have to walk with 20 eyes, because this area where the crash occurred today is an area of ​​constant curves and countercurves, without signage and supposedly without knowing Where is the train ahead and what is the track like? Because they can assure you that the train ahead has already passed, but what they cannot assure you is what the track is like. If there is something on the track, if it was crossed, if a rail is broken, if it jumped.

So the working conditions are very precarious and one works with an obvious degree of tension. What happened today shows why.

We who work at dawn, many hours at night, the truth is that we have to walk with 20 eyes

What do you think, as a worker and connoisseur of the train and an activist for the recovery of the train, what is the solution for this deeper situation?

The truth is that we believe that there is only one way out for this, and that is for the State to take charge of the railways accordingly, for the necessary investments to be made, but we must separate what are expenses from investments, investments are those that are They need, that is, to allocate resources for management administered by competent personnel in each of the areas and to make available the recovery of the railway.

The State has to finance the reconstruction of the railways and it can do that with reflete, which is what recovers profits through freight.

Companies have to belong to the State again. The concessions are being extended again to NSA, to FerroSur, to FerroExpreso, and the truth is that this is pathetic, because at this point it is more than evident that they have not made any of the investments that were made at the time of bidding for the 90s. And yet in 2024 they still have that exploitation. These are the resources that would finance the reconstruction of the railways, well managed by competent personnel who know the subject and with supervision of the workers. I am not talking about the unions, the workers and the users, so that in this way the link between companies and unions that become the same is broken, and on the other hand, this management that makes that the resources are squandered in the way they have been and the consequences are that the railway becomes a system and that the service is getting worse and worse and that any satrap comes at any time and wants to privatize under the argument of that this doesn’t work.

What does not work is what is not done and the truth is that nothing has been done for many years.


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