Less than two weeks before it begins full public operation, Cuenca’s Tranvia de las Cuatro Rios begins its final phase of tests on Monday. The train will operate on a full schedule but without passengers and police escort, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., stopping every 10 minutes at the system’s 22 stations.
Pending final approval from the Cuenca municipal council, the tram opens to the public Friday, March 8.
“We are in the final preparations and look forward to the beginning of full service,” says Jaime Guzmán, city tram director. “Three months of tests have proven that everything is in order, our electronic systems, the tracks and signals are all functioning as planned.”
One issue continues to worry Guzmán and other officials. “In recent tests we continue to see pedestrians cross too close in front of moving trains. Obviously, we need to get the message out that this is a dangerous practice,” he says. The problem is of special concern near the Feria Libre market on Av. Las Americas and the 9 de Octubre and Rotary markets on Calles Larmar and Sangurima.
“In these areas we have seen adults and children crossing dangerously close to the tram,” Guzmán said. In one case last week, next to the 9 de Octubre on Lamar, the conductor had to stop the train to avoid hitting children. “Fortunately, we operate at reduced speed in the historic district and were able to stop.”
He added that additional Citizen Guards will be deployed in the market areas to keep pedestrians off the tracks.
Guzmán said he has been pleased with the reaction of the driving public to the tram. “Drivers are obeying the traffic signals and staying off the tracks when trains approaches. This was a big concern at the beginning of tests but the they understand that the tram always has priority.”
On Friday, the city council held the first of two debates on the tram with the fare the biggest issue remaining to be determined. Mayor Marcelo Cabrero favors a 35-cent fare at the beginning of operation although some council members say it should be higher, possibly 40 or 50 cents.
Vice Mayor Ruth Caldas is officiating at the council meetings while Cabrera is on official leave campaigning for reelection.
Guzmán confirmed that the tram will be free to the public during its first month of operation.