A year or so ago, Monocle asked me for a brief piece on the proposed bullet train between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

I sent them a short article that clearly showed my scepticism over not just the timing of the link – it was originally supposed to be ready in time for the 2014 World Cup – but also its entire premise.

(The piece was sufficiently sceptical that Monocle sent it back and asked me if there was nothing positive to say about the project. They eventually printed a straight up story of what the project entailed. Unfortunately, Monocle does not make its magazine articles available online. )

Hindsight is a marvellous thing but so far I’ve been proven right, especially about the timing. More than two years after it was announced, work has still to start on what Brazil calls the TAV, or Trem de Alta Velocidade.

The tender has been postponed twice and the country’s own courts have questioned how feasible the project is and whether it is environmentally sound.

All this came back to me this morning when I read that China was about to open a high speed rail service between Shanghai and Beijing. The 1,318-km link cost $33.9 billion and took three years to build.

That is almost three times the distance of the Rio and SP line at a cost of around 1.5 times what Brazil proposes to pay for its shorter version.

Now, comparisons between Brazil and China are always unfair for obvious reasons.

But this example nevertheless serves to illustrate why the gap between the two nations will continue to grow, as well as highlight why Brazil faces a credibility deficit.

It’s not just that China says it will do things and then does them, in the stipulated time and at something resembling the proposed budget.

More pertinent is Brazil’s own promises and expectations.

It promises the earth and then falls short. Or it ends up paying well over the odds when it realises it has overstretched itself.

It happened with the Pan American Games in 2007, when it promised to construct 54 km of metro and built precisely nothing. It is happening with the World Cup, where it took two years to decide on the venues and then another year to start building. I’d also bet it will happen with the 2016 Olympics.

Brazil’s bullet train might still come to fruition. But in a country with almost no passenger railways wouldn’t it be easier to build an ordinary, and much cheaper, rail system between the major cities?

It’s never smart to try and run before you can walk.

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