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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Purge amid Chile transport chaos
Tobalaba metro station (Photo: Gabriel Ebensperger)
The number of people trying to use the metro has almost doubled
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has sacked four ministers, as polls suggest falling support for her government.

The last few months have seen protests in the capital, Santiago, over the introduction of a new transport system.

In a national TV address, Ms Bachelet said her government owed an apology to Santiago's residents, especially the poor, for the chaos they have faced.

It is the second big cabinet reshuffle since she took office in 2006. The first one followed student protests.

Increased strain

Speaking on Monday evening, Ms Bachelet said her government was beginning a new era in which mistakes would no longer be accepted.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet
Ms Bachelet said mistakes would no longer be accepted
Transport Minister Sergio Espejo - one of those removed from his post on Monday - had been the focus of criticism since the Transantiago transport system was introduced on 10 February.

With the Transantiago, large areas of Santiago - a city of about 6m inhabitants - were left almost devoid of public transportation, forcing people to walk long distances to catch a reduced number of buses.

The system came under more strain with the start of the school year at the beginning of March.

The capital's metro system has been unable to cope with the large numbers of commuters, with reports of people fighting to get on overcrowded trains.

Emergency rooms

The number of passengers trying to use the underground is said to have almost doubled, with some 2.2m users in a week.

One person is reported to have died from a heart attack as a result of the crush, another died after fainting from lack of oxygen.

The authorities have set up emergency rooms to deal with the increased numbers of cases of fainting due to the lack of oxygen and higher temperatures.

The transport problems have sparked frequent protests in Santiago's poorer neighbourhoods, where roads have been blocked with barricades.

Ms Bachelet - whose popularity rating is said to have fallen to about 47% - also replaced the justice minister, the defence minister and her chief of staff.

Have you been affected by the travel problems in Santiago?

A selection of your comments:

I currently live in Santiago and see this chaos every single day. The system is a good idea but it was badly implemented with not very much information on the new routes. I have to say though, the majority of the people left it until the very last minute to purchase special cards and only informed themselves when they needed to use the system instead of beforehand and that led to a lot of confusion and long queues.
Emma, Santiago, Chile

I was in Santiago in early February when Transantiago began, and it was ridiculous. The worst aspect was the lack of information provided to commuters - thousands of people were left standing at bus stops, not knowing which buses stopped there. The signage was confusing, or simply non-existent so riders were left guessing which buses stopped there. Many gave up hope of finding their proper bus, and took to the subway, which then became jammed with more people than it could handle. My sympathies go out to Santiaguinos, especially the lower class who as usual are neglected and powerless.
Paul, Denver, Colorado, USA

Yes I am affected and my family. This a complete change in the public transport system which required more time and planning and with the various changes being implemented separately. Unfortunatly that was not adopted and in tippicle Latin American politaical and legistalive ways introduced with the resulting chaos and little pry forethought. It is an excellent and abicious plan that certainly has reduced the pollution levels caused by the old public bus service and in time it will work.
Graham Kenny, Santiago, Chile

The Transantiago transport system has been poorly designed and implemented. It started with the idea of Santiago's subway (Metro) as the core of the transport system. As a result, people tend to use the subway instead of buses, and even so, these buses are filled with people, as full as he subway.
Cristián Rojas Poblete, Santiago, Chile

I was there when the new lines of the metro went into puente alto but for such a large city it has a very limited scope. I left just before the news of the reduction of buses and I thought it was madness. The bus system is horrible, used by low income citizens it seems no one cares that the drivers drive like mainiacs, don't stop to pick people up if they don't feel like it, the buses are disgustingly dirty and on some routes personal safety is an issue. Something has to be done, citizens in Santiago live with appalling pollution but if the only option to the car is this transit system everyone will suffer.
Diana, Vancouver, Canada

Although it is true that the system has had important problems of implementation and poor planning, protests have been very localized as many people understand that a transportation system change of such a magnitude can only be a benefit for everybody.
Ismael, Santiago, Chile

In November of 2006, my husband and I traveled for 24 days in Chile and found the bus system to be a wonderful way to travel around Chile. We were very impressed. At that time, the metro was so packed we could harldy get on. I hope that they solve the problems before we go back.
Rhonda Gillingwater, Hamilton NJ, USA

I've been walking 45 minutes to work since Transantiago came into force. Between a life- threatening experience on the metro or a 45 min queue to get on a bus, I'd rather depend on my own two feet.
Em, Santiago, Chile

Country profile: Chile
16 Mar 07 |  Country profiles

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