Strike hits Brazil subway service
Published 05/06/2014 | 13:52
The Brazilian city due to host the World Cup opener in a week is in transit chaos after subway and overland train operators went on strike.
The stoppage for better wages in Sao Paulo was called early today and unions say there is no set date for ending it.
Nearly 3.5 million commuters rely on the subway and overland trains each day.
On the streets, people were spilling out of crowded buses which were operating normally.
Amid angry scenes, commuters kicked in a large door at the train station closest to Itaquerao stadium, which will host the tournament opener between Brazil and Croatia on June 12.
The strike puts at risk the only means that most football fans will have to reach the stadium.
Angry passengers jumped onto the tracks to protest at some stations, though they dispersed when police arrived. Others rushed to bus stops to squeeze into the packed vehicles and make their way to work.
The strike follows others by bus, subway and overland train operators that have frustrated passengers.
"The strikes ... are getting on my nerves," said Silvia Rodrigues da Silva, who manages a small coffee shop in central Sao Paulo. "The subway station nearest my house was closed so I had wait for more than an hour to get into an overcrowded bus to come to work."
Last night a judge ordered the train operators to work at full capacity during rush hours, and at 70% capacity in off hours. Union members voted to go ahead with the strike anyway, despite the judge ordering that the union be fined for each day it ignores the ruling.
In response to the strike, Sao Paulo's government suspended a rule that restricts cars from entering the central part of the city.
That led to extreme congestion on main roads, with the government's transit authority saying the city was seeing its worst traffic of the year so far.
Sao Paulo is notorious for congested roads and crowded public transport, the failures and costs of which have stoked protests over the past year.
Massive demonstrations that overtook many Brazilian cities last June were initially sparked by a violent police crackdown on marchers calling for the reversal of a hike in public transport fares.