ⓘ Line A (Buenos Aires Underground)


ⓘ Line A (Buenos Aires Underground)

Line A is the oldest line of the Buenos Aires Underground. Opened to the public on 1 December 1913, the first underground line in South America, the Southern Hemisphere and the Spanish-speaking world. It made Buenos Aires the 13th city in the world to have an underground transport service. The line stretches 9.8 km from Plaza de Mayo and San Pedrito and runs under all of the Avenida de Mayo and part of the Avenida Rivadavia, and is used by 258.000 people per day.

On the first day of public service 18 December 1913, it carried 220.000 passengers. Line A used the cars used at its inauguration for just under a century. These cars were built by Belgian company La Brugeoise starting in 1913 and were refurbished in 1927 when their wooden structure was modified for underground-only use.

A peculiarity of the original "pantograph" cars on the "underground tramway" is that until 1926 they had both low doors at the ends for boarding from the street and high doors in the middle for loading from platforms in the tunnel. For this reason, Line A might also be considered the continents first "light rail subway". The old wooden cars were removed in 2013, and replaced by modern cars.

The line has been extended twice since the completion of the original line in 1914, with the most recent two-station extension of San Jose de Flores and San Pedrito entering service on 27 September 2013.


1. History

During the first decade of the 20th century in Buenos Aires, road traffic had sharply increased due to a growing population. In 1903 the city had 895.381 inhabitants and there were 4.791 horse-drawn carriages and 60 cars, while by 1913 there were 1.457.885 people, with 6.211 carriages and 7.438 automobiles.

Because it was necessary to create new forms of mass transit, in 1909 the Congress awarded Ferrocarril del Oeste FCO Buenos Aires Western Railway a concession to build a two-way underground railway that would join the main route of the Buenos Aires Western Railway currently the Sarmiento Railway at Once railway station, near Sadi Carnot Street now Mario Bravo with the port. But on 28 December of that year the Municipality of the City of Buenos Aires gave a concession to the Anglo-Argentine Tramways Company AATC, which operated 80% of the tram system at the time – making it perhaps the largest in the world- to build an underground passenger rail service.

After a dispute, it was agreed that the Western Railway would the line for freight, but only with one track at a depth that would allow the passage of the CTAA passenger line on a higher plane. Thus, construction of the Anglo-Argentine Line began on 15 September 1911, with the German company Philipp Holzmann & Cia. as contractor. The construction of this line involved hiring 1.500 workers and used 31 million bricks, 108.000 170-kilogram 370 lb bags of cement, 13.000 metric tons 14.000 short tons of iron braces, and 90.000 square metres 970.000 sq ft of insulating layer. The total investment to build the line was m$n 17 million. m$n 3 million was invested in the excavation of the tunnel, m$n 7 million in construction, m$n 2.5 million in the initial 50 trains and m$n 2 million for the Polvorin Workshop.

The Plaza de Mayo-Plaza Miserere section was inaugurated on 1 December 1913. On the following day it opened to the public, carrying 220.000 passengers. It was the first underground in South America, the Southern Hemisphere and the Spanish speaking world. Buenos Aires thus became the 13th city in the world to have an underground railway, behind London, Athens, Istanbul, Vienna, Budapest, Glasgow, Paris, Boston, Berlin, New York, Philadelphia, and Hamburg. Each station had a length of 100 metres and had friezes of specific colours for easy identification.

The construction of the Plaza Miserere station was performed by two companies, CTAA and FCO. At that time the station had two tracks for the railroad in the middle, and two pairs of lines for the underground, which were on the laterals. The outside southern track of the subway was eliminated in 1926 and it was decided to extend the platform to make the rail-underground transfer more convenient.

The route was extended to Rio de Janeiro Station on 1 April 1914 and on 14 July of that year to Caballito, renamed Primera Junta in 1923. Beyond Primera Junta a ramp was built in 1915 in the center of Rivadavia Avenue between Cachimayo and Emilio Mitre streets, for trains to access the Polvorin Workshop on Emilio Mitre and Jose Bonifacio streets, covering a surface loop shared with tram traffic until 1963. This 2 km route has been used since 1980 by Asociacion Amigos del Tranvia Association of Friends of the Tram to run the Buenos Aires Historical Tramway. The ramp had originally taken passengers to the surface to the intersection of Lacarra and Rivadavia Avenues where trains continued to run at street level, a service that was cancelled on 31 December 1926.


1.1. History Recent developments

In 1997 the Plaza Miserere station was declared a national historic monument. Over the years, most stations on the line have also been declared part of the national patrimony of Argentina, and are thus protected. Unlike other lines, the original stations preserve much of their original appearance and many stations have also been restored or feature exhibits which show the history of the line.

In the first expansion of the line since 1914, Puan and Carabobo stations were opened in December 2008. As part of the opening ceremony for the two stations Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri drove one of the La Brugeoise trains. Later in September 2013, the San Jose de Flores and San Pedrito stations were opened, bringing the length of the line up to 9.8 km and the total number of stations to 18, while adding an additional 35.000 passengers per day to the line. That same year, the line was also converted from 1100 volts to 1500 volts to match the rest of the network.


1.2. History Chronology

  • 3 June 1937 – Line D built, creating a new connection at Peru station.
  • 24 April 1966 – Line E extended to Bolivar, creating another connection at Peru station.
  • 9 November 1934 – Line C built, creating a new connection at Lima station.
  • 18 October 2007 – Line H built, creating a new connection at Plaza Miserere
  • 27 September 2013 – Line A extended to San Pedrito.
  • 22 December 2008 – Line A extended to Carabobo.
  • 17 February 1939 – the line obtained its current name, Line A.
  • 1 April 1914 – extended to Rio de Janeiro.
  • 1 July 1914 – extended to Caballito renamed to Primera Junta in 1923.
  • 1953 – Pasco Sur and Alberti Norte were closed, leaving Pasco and Alberti with just one platform each.
  • 1 December 1913 – the Line is inaugurated between Plaza de Mayo and Plaza Miserere.

2.1. Rolling stock 1913–2013

While the line was under construction, the Anglo-Argentine Tramways Company took bids from two companies to provide the rolling stock for the line: the Belgian company La Brugeoise et Nicaise et Delcuve and the British United Electric Car Company. The tram models presented by the respective companies were the La Brugeoise cars and the UEC Preston.

The latter was noted for its extravagant interior design, featuring exotic materials and UEC sent 4 of these trams to Buenos Aires for the AATCs consideration. Ultimately, the company chose to go with the Belgian trams and 125 of them were built to serve the line, though the 4 Preston trams were also kept to serve on the line. In 1927, the trams were converted to underground cars following the lines extension underground and abandonment of its overground segment.

The UEC Preston cars left service in 1977 and the 3 remaining models are today used on the Buenos Aires Heritage Tramway and also for special occasions on Line A of the underground, such as during its 100-year anniversary. The Brugeoise cars remained in service, though numerous attempts over the years were made to either modernise the fleet was done with a few cars modernised by the Emepa Group in the 1980s or replace the rolling stock completely. One such attempt to replace the rolling stock was with the purchase of 96 Alstom Metropolis cars in 2001, however these were ultimately assigned to Line D instead of Line A.

After 96 years of continuous service, the La Brugeoise cars were nearing their final withdrawal from service in 2009. Spare parts for these trains were no longer available on the market so they had to be custom-made by request at Polvorin Workshop, where La Brugeoise units and other Buenos Aires Underground rolling stock are maintained and repaired by highly skilled and qualified personnel. At this point, it was already being discussed that these surviving vintage cars could continue operating as a tourist attraction on holidays and Sundays.

According to Metrovias, the Buenos Aires Underground private operator, units underwent a routine check-up every 20 days, while every four years heavy maintenance was performed. Despite their 96 years of uninterrupted service, La Brugeoise trains had one of the lowest mechanical failure averages in the network: 19 every 100.000 km.


2.2. Rolling stock 2013–present

By 2013, After 99 years of continuous service, the Brugeoise cars were definitively withdrawn from service on January 12, 2013, 11 months before their 100th anniversary. They were replaced by new CNR rolling stock, which has been slowly introduced as units arrive from China. The original rolling stock has since been maintained, some in exhibition and some being converted to 1500 V to run tourist services on the line. In December 2013 a law was passed which meant that the entire La Brugeoise fleet would receive protection status and would thus only be donated to organisations dedicated to their restoration and preservation.

The 45 200 Series CNR cars which arrived in 2013 were not sufficient to cover the entire fleet of the line, so it had to be supplemented by a temporary fleet of 35 Fiat-Materfer cars, which was still not enough to replace the 120 La Brugeoise units. Some additional reformed Siemens-Schuckert Orenstein & Koppel trains were added to the temporary fleet in addition to the Materfer trains, however the replacement of the rolling stock coincided with the opening of the San Jose de Flores and San Pedrito stations in the same year, so the line was still left with a serious defect in its rolling stock causing a decline in passenger numbers.

In the meantime, a further 105 200 Series cars were ordered from China so that the line would be served in its entirety by 150 of these cars, and so the Siemens O&K cars could be completely retired from service and the Materfer cars moved to Line E in time for its extension to Retiro. These cars have been steadily arriving into the country since 2015 and are being incorporated into the line in order to recuperate the declines in frequency and passenger numbers since the retirement of the La Brugeoise cars. The last of the CNR units are expected to arrive between 2016 and 2017, by which time Line As rolling stock will consist entirely of the 200 Series.


3. Ghost stations

Two ghost stations exist on the line. These are Alberti Norte and Pasco Sur, which were closed in 1953. Both these stations had a single platform which allowed boarding trains only towards a single direction, while their opposite platforms located close to each of the ghost stations remain open as Alberti and Pasco.