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Cuenca’s tram may roll by the end of the year — but that could change

For the first time since taking office, Cuenca’s new city government is suggesting a start-up schedule for operation of the city’s beleaguered tram system – the end of the year. The tram director, Carolina Ormaza, cautions however, that operations could be pushed back to early 2020.

Tram cars sit idle in the main rail yard on Av. Mexico.

According to Ormaza, three major obstacles must be overcome before the trains roll. “The most important is having a maintenance contract in effect and we are currently in the negotiation process for this,” says. “There are three companies interested but Alstom of France is the clear favorite since they built the system and have many years of experience in maintaining their own work.”

Ormaza estimates that a five-year maintenance contract will cost the city $19 million.

The second issue to be resolved is the training and credentialing of the train conductors. “Some of this work was done during the previous administration but several things were left unresolved like the proper licensing of the operators and having liability insurance in place,” Ormaza says. “Because of the inactivity for much of the year, additional live training will be required.”

The third obstacle to resolve, Ormaza says, is the resolution of contract disputes with construction contractors, the ACTN and CITA consortiums. The disputes are currently in mediation but she hopes they can be resolved within one to two months.

In addition to the three main areas of concern, Ormaza says that other problems must be addressed. “During the down-time of the last four months, vehicles and pedestrians have started invading the train tracks again so we must resume the public education program. In addition, we must reach an agreement with the public bus companies and clean the tracks of debris.”

Ormaza says that it would be “irresponsible” to announce an exact start date until all problems are resolved. “The situation remains fluid and changeable and, at this point, we can only say we are aiming for full operations by the end of this year or possibly early next year.”