Crowds gathered early Friday morning to get a preview of what Cuenca’s new tram system, Tranvía de los Cuatro Rios, will look like when it goes into action in about a year.
The first test of rolling stock, rescheduled from Thursday due to electrical problems, covered less than two kilometers, with the tram unit moving at five kilometers per hour, far below its eventual operational speed of 22 kph.
The test lasted for about two hours and, according to Cuenca transportation director Gerard Fernandez, accomplished its goals. “Everything worked as planned once we had resolved the problems that caused the delay,” he said.
Those goals included checks out the train’s braking system, track stability, electrical connections with overhead cables, as well as other systems. On its maiden voyage, the tram carried only the driver and four engineers from Alstom, the French company managing the project.
According to Fernandez, there will be more tests in the coming weeks.
The tram is scheduled to be completed in July 2016 and to become operational four months later. The tram line covers 21 kilometers from southwest Cuenca to the industrial park in the northeast.
The $231 million project has stirred controversy, particularly among business owners along the route who have been affected by construction. Following protests, the city agreed last week to suspend work in the historic district until January to minimize economic damages to businesses. Other complaints have come from bus and taxi owners who fear the tram will cut into their business.
Fernandez says that similar tram systems in Europe faced criticism while they were under construction. “Once the trains began to run, however, everybody loved it and came to understand that the price that was paid was well worth it. I think the reaction in Cuenca will be the same.”
See the video, below.