Crowds watch the tram roll into El Centro
Hundreds of Cuencanos and a handful of expats turned out Thursday morning to watch the tram roll into the historic district for the first time. Moving slowly to allow engineers to take technical measurements, the five-car unit left the train yard at Av. Mexico at 8 a.m., turned north on Av. Las America and arrived at iglesia Corazón de Jesús on Gran Colombia an hour later.
French engineers from Alstom, the tram manufacturer, and ACTN, the project manager, walked in front of the train, some taking sensor readings of the electric power supply and track pressure gauges. The track north of the Feria Libre market had not undergone a live test before Thursday.
Spectators lined the sidewalks of the tram route, many walking alongside the train, taking cellphone photos and videos. The crowd seemed impressed. One woman, near the Las Americas – Gran Colombia redondel said she liked what she saw but wished she had been watching it two years earlier. A man standing near the Corazón de Jesús church said to woman standing next to him, “See, no noise and no pollution.”
According to city tram manager Jaime Guzmán, the test run was a success. “All systems worked as expected,” he said. “There were no problems with the electrical connections and the new track performed flawlessly,”
More test runs are planned for next week. On April 9, 10 and 11, the tram will follow the same route as Thursday’s test, but at night, to test lighting systems.
On April 12, during Cuenca’s foundation festival, the public will be allowed to board the train, says Guzmán. “Vice President (María Alejandra) Vicuña will be in town for the occasion and will ride the train with Mayor (Marcelo) Cabrera.”
Besides completing construction, expected in October, Guzmán said another prime objective is the development of safety systems before the tram becomes operational next year. “We are working with European experts who have experience in this area,” he said. “They have established effective systems and protocols with similar projects and we will rely on their direction.”