“During the journey people that lived surrounding the line approached and applauded the new train.”
This past Summer, the focus of the world was on Rio de Janeiro for the world's greatest celebration of sport, the Olympics and Paralympics. Serving the city, Metro Rio spans Brazil’s largest in size and second most populous metropolitan region covering 62km and calling at 41 stations. In preparation for this year’s games, Metro Rio developed their fourth line in anticipation of the extra demand that would be generated from the event. This has added a further 16km of track and five stations to connect Ipanema to Barra da Tijuca and the Olympic Park. Following the Rio Olympics, Sarah Wright had an opportunity to speak with Joubert Flores, Engineering Director for Metro Rio. Flores is celebrating his 42nd year at the metro and has followed its progression and development since construction in 1979. In Rio most journeys are made by car which is contributing to the huge levels of congestion on key connecting roads in the city. In the last decade, the amount of road traffic has risen by 40% and an average drive takes 50% longer in peak times. In this interview, Flores discusses his concerns and hopes for increasing the passenger ridership for Metro Rio.
Sarah Wight (SW): How did you get into the rail industry?
Joubert Flores (JF): It first stemmed from my experience as an intern for Metro Rio after finishing my high school degree. In my first year of college I studied electrical engineering when Metro Rio was under construction. Technology, especially railway technology has always been my main interest since I was a boy. Both my father and gradfather worked in the industry which has also inspired me. After college I joined Metro Rio during the beginning phases of the development so I have been able to follow all stages of its construction from design, to commission, to operation and maintenance. I worked in the maintenance area of the project for 20 years and then moved to another department where I ran Human Resources, Supply Chain and Institutional Relations which included all external communications. The last five years I have been in charge of Engineering where I lead new projects and handle: asset management, PMO areas, Power Supply contracts, Maintenance Engineering and benchmarking. This month I will be celebrating 42 years with the Company.
SW: What do like most about your job?
JF: What I enjoy about this industry is the opportunity I have to improve the quality of peoples’ lives because mobility is such a key component in big cities. Now, my main responsibility is to provide new technology for Metro Rio. A world-class metro should be able to deliver a regular and reliable service. Both of these goals can only be achieved alongside strong engineering support. The hoped result is that passengers will be provided a predictable service thanks to the engineer’s hard work backstage.
SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
JF: The biggest challenge in my role is when I deliver new equipment and systems for operations to update the existing technology. For example, recently we had to increase our fleet. This process included the procurement of the new trains, the design and follow up with the production, commissioning and then beginning the operation. This was a major project which involved more than 50 sub projects but it was a successful experience. We were able to achieve our targets by delivering the trains in keeping with time and budget. Another challenge I faced was when we needed to extend the fourth train line in preparation for the Olympics games.
SW: What will be some of the biggest differences between rail now and in 10 years’ time?
JF: There is more pressure for railways to deliver more than just a trip from A to B now with the increased opportunities for passenger experience. Time is very important for passengers who are always in a hurry. Therefore stations will look to facilitate these customer demands by offering new services and greater incentives than using cars. We need to focus on how public transport can give people more time to study, stay with their families, exercise or simply have fun in order to improve the quality of life for ours citizens. These worries didn’t exist ten years before.
SW: What’s your favourite rail journey?
JF: The most remarkable journey I had was a professional one. Every time we finish constructing and commissioning a new line we have to run a train for the first time. We do it very slowly to identify if there are any technical interferences. A few years ago a new extension was opened with eight new stations for a poor area of the city which the inhabitants had waited for for many years. Even though the first journey was made at night, those who lived near approached and applauded the new train. It was very emotional and every one of us felt touched. Someone asked the experienced driver if he too felt emotional. His answer was that if he does not feel moved by any journey that he takes then he will have to stop working in the industry for good. After all these years I always refer to this experience and every time I think about it, that emotion stays with me.
SW: Thank you for your time today Joubert and we wish success at Metro Rio as you look to increase ridership.
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