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City negotiates with French tram manufacturer Alstom on system maintenance costs

The company that built the components of Cuenca’s tram system has submitted a bid of $19 million to provide maintenance for the first five years of the train’s operation. According to Mayor Marcelo Cabrera, the figure could change as negotiations between the French rail manufacturer Alstom and the city continue.

The tram during a recent test run.

The bid would cover both preventive and corrective maintenance, Cabrera says, for the 14 units of the tram system as well as its electronics.

Cabrera says he and the city council hope to begin tram service with a fare of 35 cents but adds that this could increase before the system becomes operational in early March. “Our window is 35 cents to 50 cents but this is contingent on ridership,” he says. “We prefer to begin service at the low end. There will be public subsidies for the tram, just as there are for the bus system.”

City councilman and chair of the Integrated System of Transportation and Operation committee, Xavier Barrera, backs Cabrera on opening tram service with the 35 cent fare. “The tram is part of an integrated transportation system,” he says. “Passengers from the tram will transfer to the bus and vice versa so the fare must serve the entire system.”

A subsidy is necessary, Barrera says. “We knew there would be subsidy from the beginning and this is a legitimate use of tax money.” Although no final figures have been announced, Cabrera estimated that the tram subsidy would amount to about $2 million during the first year of operations.

The city announced Thursday that it expects to pay $800,000 a year for the electricity to power the system.