São Paulo on Rails


São Paulo, with its 12 million inhabitants, is the largest city and the main urban center in both Brazil and South America. Metropolitan São Paulo comprises just over 21 million inhabitants, distributed among 39 municipalities, and is the tenth-largest metropolitan region in the world. This entire complex system of cities within metropolitan São Paulo, with their distinct population characteristics and profiles, is interconnected by a rail transport system that seeks to integrate the metropolitan region.


This system comprises a network of trains and subways. The map in Figure 1 shows all the lines. Each line has an identification number. The train lines, all of which run at ground level, were also named after gemstones (ruby, diamond, emerald, turquoise, coral, sapphire, and jade), and the subway lines, which run at both ground level and underground, were given color designations (blue, red, yellow, green, lilac and silver). The two systems carry approximately 7.5 million people daily on 12 lines through 182 stations. 

The Companhia Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos (São Paulo Metropolitan Train Company – CPTM) manages the train network, which consists of lines inherited from different companies that operated specific routes, linking São Paulo to neighboring cities. According to Camila Antunes, Fernanda Ferreira, and Thiago Pássaro (2014), the history of railways in the state of São Paulo began in 1867 with the inauguration of the Estrada de Ferro Santos-Jundiaí (Santos-Jundiaí Railroad – EFSJ), the first line linking the cities of Santos (coast), São Paulo, and Jundiaí (interior).


In the 1870s, the company Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil (Central Railway of Brazil – EFCB) built the Estrada de Ferro do Norte (North Railroad), linking the capital of the state to the cities of the Paraíba Valley in the interior (of the state), and in 1926 the Variante de Poá (Poá Alternative) was built as a second line to the Paraíba Valley. In 1875 the company Estrada de Ferro Sorocabana (Sorocabana Railway Company) built a railroad connecting São Paulo to the city of Sorocaba, and in 1957 the Jurubatuba Branch was inaugurated, providing a second line linking the capital to Santos. Marcos Kiyoto de Tani e Isoda (2013) notes that in 1957 all federal railroads were unified under a single state-owned company, Rede Ferroviária Federal (Federal Railroad Network – RFFSA), which was a merger of EFSJ and EFCB. In 1971, all railways managed by the state of São Paulo, including the Sorocabana Railway, were unified under Ferrovia Paulista S/A (São Paulo Railways – FEPASA). In 1992 the São Paulo state government created the CPTM to manage transportation in a unified manner. All the railways mentioned previously were wholly or partially incorporated into this new company. Table 1 shows the original railways and their lines in the current configuration. Nowadays there are seven lines in operation, with a total of 94 stations on 273 km of tracks. A characteristic of all lines is that they start in the city of São Paulo and end in another municipality of the metropolitan region.

From 1888 to the mid-1960s, the city of São Paulo developed at least 14 projects to build a subway system (Silva 2019), none of which was implemented, usually due to financial or technical difficulties. It was only in 1968 that the state government founded the Companhia do Metropolitano de São Paulo (São Paulo Metro Company – Metrô) to plan, implement, and manage the subway transportation system. In 1974, line 1-Blue was inaugurated, followed five years later by line 3-Red. Only in 1991 did the inauguration of line 2-Green take place and in 2002, line 5-Lilac. Finally, in 2010, line 4-Yellow was inaugurated and in 2014, line 15-Silver. Currently, the subway system has six lines with 88 stations along 96 km.

Figure 1: Map of the railway system of the metropolitan region of São Paulo

Table 1: Railways and train lines