Metro Sao Paulo: Breaking new ground underground

The city of São Paulo in Brazil’s southeast is not only the largest city in South America by some distance, it can also claim to be one of the world’s biggest cities by area and population. With some 22 million people filling the city on an average weekday, and its area covering approximately 8,000 square kilometres, it is truly a modern megacity and the beating heart of Brazil.


Naturally, the transport infrastructure has a considerable task in providing transport to so many people. Metro São Paulo, the city’s underground network, celebrates 50 years this year. With a major line extension underway, now is an excellent time to take a closer look at the system which has become such an integral part of life in the city over the past half century.


50-years a growing

The Companhia do Metropolitano de São Paulo was founded in April 1968, at a time when São Paulo was a remarkably different city to the one that now exists. At time, it had around a third of the population it now has and people made their way in and out of the city centre in ‘fuscas’ (Volkswagon Beatles), urban and regional buses.


The arrival of the first metro line, the north-to-south running blue line, in 1972 changed the dynamics of South America’s largest city forever. However, the second line - the red line, which runs approximately east to west - didn’t arrive until 1979. It is still by far the busiest line, connecting some of São Paulo’s largest neighborhoods with the city centre.


While a third line (the green line, connecting the famous Vila Madalena neighborhood to the city centre) was introduced in 1991, it was really only at the beginning of the millennium - at the same time that Brazil was beginning its phenomenal economic ascent - that real investment began to take place in Metro São Paulo and it began to expand accordingly.


New lines were quickly introduced, most significantly the lilac (line 5) and yellow (line 4) lines in 2001 and 2010 respectively. The arrival of the silver line (line 15) in 2014 was the first monorail service in South America. The fact that the metro has grown from just 3 lines to nearly 5 and several more train lines and lines under construction and in planning since 2001 says everything about the astonishing journey that Metro São Paulo finds itself on.



While the past 20 years have brought tremendous progress to the metro’s rail network in São Paulo, it has only whetted the city’s appetite for more. Research by Accenture, hired by Metro São Paulo for strategy consulting, shows that it needs to dramatically increase the number of stations and lines to meet the city’s staggering demands.


It aims to deliver on these requirements. Total investment in the metro is increasing year-on-year. In 2017 alone, investments totaled over 2 billion Brazilian reals (approximately 500 million US dollars), which was used to refurbish and modernize existing lines, as well as to expand and build new lines - the evidence of which can be seen all over the city.


Extensions, Expansions, Excellence

Metro São Paulo, which can already claim to be the most modern of its kind in South America, continues to modernize and expand. Residents of the city will notice new stations opening on a reasonably regular basis, with attractive three new stations added along the yellow line in just the past two years, facilitating millions of faster arrivals in the city each year.


Elsewhere, the network’s expansion will include a new line from Congonhas Domestic Airport - in the fringes of the city main business districts - all the way down to Morumbi, the famous home of São Paulo Football Club. In fact, there’s barely a line which isn’t being extended, with Lines 2, 4, 5, 13, 15 and 17 all undergoing extensions at the current time.


In 2018, it was awarded the best transport in São Paulo for the fourth consecutive year by a public opinion poll carried out by local firm Datafolha. To commemorate 50 years in the city, it has organized a cultural program, which will take place in May, highlighting the contribution that it has made to the city’s progress. 



The sheer scale of Metro São Paulo and its ongoing extensions means that the company calls on several domestic and international partners and suppliers to achieve excellence. Primary among these has been the local office of Accenture, the US consulting firm, which has helped it to develop its strategy for the coming years.


Elsewhere, ongoing construction services are provided by Brazilian firms Guima Conseco Construção, Serviços e Comércio, which worked on line 3, CAF Brazil Industria e Comércio, which has worked on lines 1, 3 and 5, and Odebrecht, which has been involved in a number of construction works across the network.


The significant engineering operations were mostly catered for by local firms like Adtranz Sistemas Electromecânicos and Galvão Engenharia, as well as well-known international firms like Bombardier, Siemens, Thyssenkrupp and Alstom - all of which are contributing to make Metro São Paulo an underground network befitting of a global megacity.


A lot done, more to do

Anyone who has ever been to São Paulo cannot help but be struck by its breathtaking size. As far as the eye can see, there are skyscrapers extending on every side. A city of this size without a metro would be unthinkable. Metro São Paulo has taken on the responsibility of ensuring that the metro São Paulo has works for the millions of Paulistanos (as the locals are called) that need it.


When the current range of extensions to the metro are finished, it is envisaged that Metro São Paulo will cater for nearly 10 million journeys a day, and pushing it into the world’s 10 largest metro systems by passenger numbers. The city of São Paulo was one of the world’s fastest growing cities overground in the 20th century. In the 21st century, it looks to be the fastest growing city underground.