Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera has announced that the city transportation office will renegotiate contracts with the French consortium responsible for building the tram system. The move is necessary, he says, to establish a realistic construction schedule. The new contracts will not affect project costs, the mayor says.
Cabrera says that the project was months behind schedule when he took office earlier this year and project managers for the French consortium SMTC-Artellia Ville agree.
Much of the delay, according to SMTC representative Alfredo Silva, is due to unforeseen technical problems. “As we have prepared the route we have encountered issues that were not part of the original plan,” he says. He adds that preparation work in the historic district has also added additional steps that were not anticipated. A November report by a team of UNESCO experts recommends a number of steps to ensure historic preservation that were not calculated before the project began.
The project was originally scheduled to be completed in early 2015 but the date has been pushed back to mid-2016.
According to city transportation chief Gerard Fernandez, the delay is the result, in some cases, of poor planning, but also due to the need to examine the impact the train will have on neighborhoods, streets and bridges. “This is the biggest public project in the city’s history so it is not surprising that we have encountered problems,” he says. Many of those problems, he says, involve protecting historic sites.
Silva and Fernandez say that planning to protect historic structures in the historic center is taking more time than originally scheduled. “There are soil tests required to make sure we don’t have consequences from vibration, for example,” says Fernandez. “We also realize that we will find archeological artifacts during the digging process that will need to be carefully removed,” he says.
Fernandez added that the city will take advantage of tram construction in El Centro to replace old pipes and cables. “While we are excavating it makes sense to make repairs that are long overdue.”