Mayor claims progress in tram start but council members demand a schedule

Jul 30, 2019 | 5 comments

Tram units sit idle at the Av. Mexico train yard. (El Tiempo)

Although Mayor Pedro Palacios says the city is making “impressive progress” in efforts to put Cuenca’s long-delayed tram into operation, some municipal councilmen say there needs to be a firm schedule.

Following his upset victory over incumbent mayor Marcelo Cabrera in March, Palacio estimated it would take seven months to put the tram on the tracks but a day later he said the city would make no more estimates about the start of service.

On Friday, Palacios said that 23 percent of the 635 tasks necessary to run the tram have been accomplished.

The lack of a firm deadline is a major concern for Alfredo Aguilar, chair of the Municipal Mobility Commission. “We need more than a vague numerical count to tell us where we stand the project,” he says, adding that he intends to bring up the topic at the next council meeting. “We need a schedule so everyone understands the goal.”

Among other things, Aguilar questions the lengthy delay in deciding the tram fare. “We have had the information for making a decision for many months and now is the time to do it. The mayor should put this on the agenda.” He added that some of the items the mayor claims remain to be resolved have, in fact, already been decided.

Councilman Roque Ordóñez agrees with Aguilar and questions what he considers a lack of urgency by the new administration. “We understand that mistakes were made in the past and that these must be corrected,” he says. “At the same time, given the level of investment in this project, I would like to know that it is a priority. My fear is that valuable time is being wasted.”

Palacios counters that it would be “irresponsible” to rush the project to conclusion, saying the “record is clear what has happened when this was attempted in the past.” He says he and his staff are working diligently to finish the work, focusing on obtaining proper licenses for conductors, negotiating operations and maintenance contracts and reaching an agreement with bus owners of route changes to optimize tram usage.

“These issues are all important,” says Ordóñez, “but we need a better framework to understand when the goals will be met. I am told privately that the tram will be running by October or November and don’t understand why this cannot be made public.”

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