Sao Paulo monorail contract boosts BYD‘s global urban transport ambitions
SkyRail for Line 17 project is company‘s second major collaborative project in Brazil
20 May 2020 | Michael Marray

CHINA'S BYD has taken a step forward with its global urban transport ambitions after signing a contract to build a monorail line in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city. Under an agreement formally signed between BYD SkyRail Sao Paulo and Sao Paulo Metro on April 27, the company will provide its SkyRail system for the Line 17 (Gold Line) project.

This is the company‘s second major collaborative project in Brazil. In 2018 it signed up to build a light rail system in the city of Salvador, Bahia state. BYD said in a statement that, with Brazil as a starting point, the company plans to grow its activities in South America and make a strong impact on the construction of urban rail transit worldwide.

The Skyrail system, unveiled in 2016 as a test track at BYD headquarters in Shenzhen, is a newcomer to the global market for urban transport. The company spent 5 billion yuan and five years of research and development on Skyrail.

The first system to go into commercial operation, back in September 2017, was in the city of Yinchuan, capital of Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The company has since signed contracts with cities such as Guilin, Shantou and Bengbu, but winning the Sao Paulo Metro contract is a big step forward.

Sao Paulo wanted an integrated package delivered. BYD will build the conductive rail line, and provide Line 17 with 14 sets of five-vehicle trains, switches, the signalling system, and a central control system.

The first phase of the Line 17 project will extend from Sao Paulo’s Congonhas Airport to other central parts of the city, connecting various business districts, the University of Sao Paulo, and densely populated areas in the city’s east. With a total length of 17.7 kilometres upon completion, the Gold Line will connect with Line 1 (Blue), Line 4 (Yellow), Line 5 (Lilac), and Line 9 (Emerald).

According to Tyler Li, country manager of BYD Brazil, Line 17 is designed to reach a daily flow of 250,000 passengers, with the interval between departures as rapid as 80 seconds.

Last October Latin American development bank CAF signed a US$296 million loan with the government of the State of Sao Paulo to support the development of the Gold Line project. Total project cost will be in excess of US$1 billion.

Sao Paulo, the business and finance capital of Brazil, is the largest city in South America with 45 million inhabitants, and suffers from severe traffic congestion. Congonhas Airport, the second busiest airport in Brazil, is one of the three major commercial airports in the city, and the most centrally located. The completion of Line 17 is expected to significantly alleviate the pressure on road traffic between the airport and other sections of the city.

With regard to the Salvador project, known as Skyrail Bahia, construction recently got underway. In 2018 a BYD and Metrogreen consortium signed a 35-year concession agreement with the State Government of Bahia to build and operate the system. The construction period is being part financed by a US$240 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank.

BYD is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, with headquarters for its North and South American operations located in downtown Los Angeles, California, where the firm’s American Skyrail team is based.

In January the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority released the names of five development companies that will compete for a contract to help design, construct and operate a public transit line between the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles, and ultimately to the international airport, LAX. BYD is a member of one of the consortia. 

At the same time, the company‘s electric vehicle division is expanding across the Latin American market, and is a major provider of electric buses, taxis and trucks in countries across the region, including Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay.

BYD currently has nearly 40,000 electric buses in service around the world, including 1,000 in Latin America. It also manufactures trucks, and last September BYD Brasil delivered nine BYD T8 electric garbage trucks to Rio de Janeiro's Municipal Urban Cleaning Company.

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