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As city plans for tram start-up, some monthly operating expenses are reduced

Following a review of operational expenses for Cuenca’s tram system, the new city government says it is saving thousands of dollars a month by reducing electricity, personnel and legal costs.

A firm date has still not be announced for the beginning of tram service.

Mayor Pedro Palacios has set a goal of reducing operational expenses by 50 percent in the months before the system begins full operation later this year. An audit of expenses identified a number of area where money can be saved, he says, including the cost of electric power which has been reduced from $22,000 to $13,000 a month. Other savings include a reduction of maintenance staff where the audit identified several cases of “redundancy” in operations.

According to Palacios, work is proceeding in preparation of full tram operation, which he says will begin “as soon as possible.” He continues to insist that no firm start-up date will be announced until he is confident it can be met. “We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past,” he says.

Municipal Councilman Cristian Zamora, who heads the council’s transportation committee, says that obstacles to the beginning of operations are in the process of being overcome. “The major one is reaching an agreement with bus owners for eliminating lines that compete with the tram and changing others to the status of feeder lines,” he says. The city can order the changes unilaterally, he adds, but prefers to come to an agreement with owners through negotiation.

Zamora says that tram conductors will soon be properly licensed and that liability insurance secured to protect the city in the case of accidents.