“There will be accidents,” says Cuenca Councilman Xavier Barrera, referring to the operational risks for Cuenca’s new tram system.
“Our challenge is to establish safety rules and protocols to keep them at a minimum. Most of all, we must educate the public about their responsibility when the tram begins operating next year.”
Barrera is working with city transportation staff, tram technicians, and French EMS experts to develop a municipal ordinance aimed at preventing accidents but also, establishing procedures for dealing with them when they occur.
The major concern of French engineers working on the tram, according to Barrera, are the habits of Cuenca drivers and pedestrians. “They see how we drive and how we act as pedestrians and have concerns that our cultural habits will cause accidents,” he says. “We need to educate the public and we need rules that will help change behaviors.”
Just as important as accident prevention, says Barrera, is being prepared to respond when the do happen.
Two French emergency services experts are currently in Cuenca working with Barrera and local firemen and medical response personnel on accident response. “The training is about dealing accidents involving the tram itself but also to other accidents that happen near the tram line, since both affect operations,” says Vincent Verstraeten, one of the trainers. “With large public transport systems, it’s critical that accidents be handled efficiently and quickly to insure public safety and avoid service interruptions.”
Verstraeten and his partner Rémi Laget are working with Cuenca transportation officials and EMS personnel on the current “live” tram tests on Avs. Mexico and Las Americas. The tests continue until June 30.
“We are moving beyond the theoretical stage in our tranvía planning,” says Barrera. “It is time to formalize our procedures and put them to the test.”