Road and Rail Transport in Brazil from an Economic And Social Perspective


Road and rail are commonly used modes of transport across many places. The reasons for the increased use of these modes are primarily economic and connectivity. For example, the road transport is arguably the most common form of transport, especially in the developing countries. Secondly, this mode of transport has increased connectivity as a form of road well serves almost every household. In particular, Brazil has the most used form of transport: roads and rail (Watts 2014, p. 1). However, in the bid to improve the country’s economy, developing the basic infrastructure in the road and rail network would be highly recommended. Improved transport would facilitate the movement of people and manufactured products from one place to another, thus improving trade. Other benefits of improved transport in Brazil are together with social benefits such as facilitating the ease of interactions (Novais 2012, p. 1). Therefore, this paper intends to evaluate the status of transport by road and rail in Brazil from economic and social perspectives. Therefore, the paper will present an analytical report with various recommendations on improving these modes of transport.

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The road transport in Brazil accounts for 58% of all national logistics (The Economist, 2013, p. 1). Nevertheless, the National Confederation of Transport reports that about 69% of the total road networks are in bad conditions (The Economist, 2012, p. 1). The most affected roads are those in the North and the North Eastern regions. The poor economic performance of these regions becomes the indicators of the effects of the poor roads. Due to their bad conditions, some roads are only usable for six months annually. During the rainy season, the roads become inaccessible (Luís, A., Freitas 2013, p. 1). In addition, other parts of the road network are unpaved and hence unusable during the rainy seasons. The transporting tracks record low mobility rates in many roads, especially in the rainy season. In fact, there are parts where the tracks travel in five days during the dry season, the tracks would cover the same in 18 days during the rainy seasons. The low mobility would then contribute to increased costs in the use of roads for transport, not only for the traders but also to the general public going about leisure travel (The Economist, 2012, p. 1). These statistics can be shown from the chart indicated below.

The rail transport is most used in the South East part of Brazil, with an approximately 47% of the total rail system being in the regions (The Economist, 2012, p. 1). The primary use of the rail in the country has been in transporting grains, wine, steel products, cement, water, and stones. The rail was introduced in the country for the purpose of transportation of the export products as against the integration of different regions. However, over the time, smaller rail companies would close down due to the reduction in the schedules of use as the export trade declined. Improving the rail transport in the country would require the construction of new rails and refurbishing the old, dilapidated rails (The Economist, 2012, p. 1).

The rail transport ranks second from the road transport and accounts for about 25% of the entire Brazilian logistic system. About 22 states among the 26 states are covered by the rail, although some sections are out of service; hence, they are least exploited (The Economist, 2012, p. 1). There is, therefore, a definite competition between the users of the roads and the rail network in the country for such purposes as economic and social purposes. However, entrepreneurs have a special attraction to the use of road transport as against the rail. As pointed out by the investors, the rail transport’s weaknesses in the country are inflexibility, low speed, high costs, and the unavailability of the Wagons (The Economist, 2012, p. 1).

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The weakness of inflexibility would be explained by the availability of only a few routes to serve all the country’s populations (The Economist, 2012, p. 1). The inflexibility is blamed for reducing ease of operations, especially for the entrepreneurs. Secondly, trains are blamed for moving at relatively low speeds, as explained by human settlements’ encroachment of the rails, hence reducing mobility. The low speed would then cause great losses to the traders, hence the undesirability. Other limitations are associated with the high costs of maintaining the rails and the wagons. At other times, wagons would be out of service or completely unavailable, and hence the mode of transport becomes unreliable (The Economist, 2012, p. 1).

Comparison: Road and Rail

The road transport has been shown to be the most used means of transport by both the social travelers and the traders in Brazil. The rail transport ranks second in the order of popularity and preference from the road transport. Secondly, the road transport is more developed than the rail and well distributed to the remote areas. Nevertheless, the two modes of transport compare with the low maintenance level and the associated high costs of using the two in the country (How Britain is helping build Brazil’s modern railway, 2013, p. 1). As illustrated in the report, the rail transport’s least popularity is associated with poor rail networks, poor maintenance, low speed and the high initial costs. In fact, the majority of the old rails is shown to be unused due to the poor state and the least preference by the users. Roads, on the other hand, are shown to be popular, although equally least efficient, because of the poor state of the roads (The Economist, 2012, p. 1). Most road networks require repair and expansion to serve the population during all seasons. Currently, most of the roads are impassable during the rainy season, a situation that contributes to higher transport costs due to the delays (Atsushi, Eric, Isabela and Satoshi, 2015, p. 1). Leisure travelers and the business people would, therefore, blame the poor state of the road networks on the great loss they experience. The government also loses much in the form of revenues generated from trade and domestic travel.


The Brazilian economy is ranked ninth globally by the IMF according to the size. The major contributor to the economic performance has been agriculture and the export of the agricultural produce. Nevertheless, the economy’s backbone faces challenges in the form of poor infrastructure (Koehl 2012, p. 1). As an agricultural and business economy, the importance of the road and rail infrastructure would not be disputed. The country realized great growth in infrastructure in the 1970s. However, after the initial efforts, the two leading modes of transport were neglected. Therefore, the importance of the means of transport to the citizens would be confirmed despite the poor performance of the ministry of transport in rehabilitating the roads and the rails (Avison 2014, p. 1). The government would not have an option but improve the conditions of the roads and the rails to foster the performance of commerce. Besides, the majority of the local citizens and the tourists utilize these local means of transport in local movement (The Economist, 2012, p. 1).


Brazil has been shown as an agricultural economy. The local movement of trade and leisure has also been shown to depend much on the road and rail transport. Nevertheless, the poor state of the roads and rails has contributed to lower popularity of the two modes of transport. While the roads are extensively distributed, they are poorly maintained, which compares with the rails in that although they are not well distributed, they are equally poorly maintained.


  • Firstly, the government would need to improve the road’s status by tarmacking and expanding the roads for ease of movement.
  • Secondly, the government would invest in repairing and improving the rails.
  • Thirdly, the government would consider working closely with the private sector to raise awareness in the good use of roads and rail for leisure and economic purposes.


Reference List

Atsushi, I., Eric R, L., Isabela, M., Satoshi, O., 2015. Evaluating the social and economic impacts of rural road improvements in the state of Tocantins, Brazil (English) [WWW Document]. Evaluating the social and economic impacts of rural road improvements in the state of Tocantins, Brazil (English). URL (accessed 4.21.16).

Avison, B., 2014. Modernising Brazil’s transport infrastructure [WWW Document]. Host City News, Global Event Hosting News. URL (accessed 4.21.16).

How Britain is helping build Brazil’s modern railway, 2013. [WWW Document]. Global Rail News. URL (accessed 4.21.16).

Koehl, A., 2012. Brazil’s Chaotic Transportation Systems At Stake – The Role Of The Private Sector [WWW Document]. COHA. URL (accessed 4.21.16).

Luís, A., Freitas, P., 2013. Assessing the quality of intercity road transportation of passengers: An exploratory study in Brazil [WWW Document]. Assessing the quality of intercity road transportation of passengers: An exploratory study in Brazil. URL (accessed 4.21.16).

Novais, A., 2012. Logistics in Brazil [WWW Document]. The Brazil Business. URL (accessed 4.21.16).

The Economist, 2012. Fourth time unlucky [WWW Document]. The Economist. URL (accessed 4.21.16).

The Economist, 2013. The road to hell [WWW Document]. URL (accessed 16).

Watts, J., 2014. Fury and frustration in Brazil as fares rise and transport projects flounder [WWW Document]. The Guardian. URL (accessed 4.21.16).

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