Although it is months away from beginning public operations, the 27 stations of Cuenca’s new tram system already have 24-hour protection. Three weeks ago, 54 guards began duty protecting the stations along the 20.5-kilometer route.
“From the beginning, we have said that security and safety will be the highest priority,” says city tram director Jaime Guzmán. “The stations will have round-the-clock protection and, when the trains begin to roll in March, we will have uniformed security agents in every unit of the system. We are sending the message to the public that this will be safe, reliable transport system.”
Guzmán adds that Cuenca is following the European public transport protocol for municipal train security. “The procedures are well-established and have been used for years in cities around the world. We are not inventing a new one.”
As of three weeks ago, two guards split time at the stations, working 12-hour shifts. “These are long hours but we pay overtime and the guards seem comfortable with the arrangement,” says Guzmán. “We may make changes when we go operational but in the meantime the plan is working.”
Currently, the guards are primarily charged with keeping unauthorized people away from the stations and protecting the electronic equipment. “Now, there is not much to do other than to participate in the rolling stock tests and remain vigilant,” says Manuel Villa, one of the 54 station guards. “We have to be alert to vandals and graffiti artists, but so far I have not had problems other than telling drunks that they can’t sleep here.”
Like the other guards, Villa keeps a notebook, recording incidents that occur during his shift. “Management will compile the information to and use it to make changes in the future, if necessary.”
The station guards are provided small tent enclosures with a table and chair, for protection against the rain and to complete their paperwork.
Villa says he talks to passersby, often explaining how the train will operate. “So far, people are very curious and respectful,” adding, “Once the trains start running, everything will change.”