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'Real' objections to Pawley's Sao Paolo

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Martin Pawley's 'little known facts' about Sao Paolo (aj 24.6.99) are as baffling to me as trying to fathom the city to which he refers.

Sao Paolo does have a 'metro' (light rail system); it is clean, air- conditioned and safe, provided you avoid travelling alone or standing close to the military police who ride every train.

As for the absence of any public transport: wait at any bus stop and you'll notice they often come in pairs. So what's new? For one, the public transport system is currently strained by a cost-cutting exercise and is not helped by the numerous white, 12-seater mini coaches (carrying the logo 'Tourismo'), which arrive at your bus stop 100m ahead of the public bus. Hop on one of these and you'll find that the driver can undercut the 1.15 real fare (about 40p) by up to 30 per cent.

I would recommend that Martin has a coffee on the 41st floor of the Casa Italia and looks out over the awesome panorama of this megalopolis to witness the evening rush-hour traffic snaking its way across its switchback freeways. Having watched the sunset, he might like to descend to the street action and hail one of the thousands of white cabs which are ranked throughout the city, time their arrival in minutes, and for a fare between five and 20 reals (£2-7) travel to any neighbourhood he wishes.

The lesson of Sao Paolo is the chaotic and messy integration of a straining public sector and free-market opportunism. If Martin is lucky enough to have his own transport available, he should be careful that the final number on its registration is not prohibited from travelling until after 20.00 hours on the evening in question - minimum 200 reals fine (£70).

Mike Menzies, Birmingham

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