Tram preparations chug slowly toward completion as complaints mount

Dec 16, 2019 | 21 comments

Tram cars sit idle in the Av Mexico train yard.

“Where in hell is the tranvia?”

That was the question asked two weeks ago by a caller to the Voz del Tomebamba morning talk radio show.

During the following days, dozens of other calls came in complaining of lack of progress and information about the tram, not only to Voz but to other Cuenca radio and television stations as well.

Among the callers were business owners on the tram line who complained that broken scheduling promises had cost them money and sent some of their neighbors into bankruptcy.

One caller complained of the silence about the tram from the new Mayor Pedro Palacios. “Before the election he talked about his plan to make the tram profitable by selling ads and sponsoring fairs near the stops,” he said. “Then, he gets into office, stops the work that has already started and doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.”

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The tram on a test run in the historic district in January.

The rising chorus of complaints and charges of broken campaign promises prompted radio and television appearances last week by Palacios and tram director Carolina Ormaza. In his interview with Palacios, the interviewer on Telerama tv said he looked out his office window on the tram tracks everyday and sees nothing happening.  “Explain yourself, Señor Mayor,” the anchor insisted. “We all want to know what’s happening.”

Palacios said that a lot is going on behind the scenes. “I understand the frustration but we had many issues to resolve when we inherited the project and we are working as quickly as possible to resolve them,” he said. “The previous administration was attempting to rush the project to completion during the campaign without having contracts in place, without having the conductors licensed and insured. There were also unresolved disputes with previous contractors that had to be negotiated. Most of these things have now been accomplished so we are much closer to beginning operations in a responsible manner.”

He added: “I am totally committed to finishing the project.”

Still to be resolved, Palacios said, are maintenance contract issues with the Spanish company, Metro Tenerife and the establishment of a fare.

One issue that may have to wait is coordination with the city’s public bus system. “Work is being done to achieve this and talks are continuing with bus owners,” he said. “It is possible, however, that complete integration of the tram and bus systems may be delayed until additional tram lines are added in the coming years.”

In another interview, Director of Tram Operations Carolina Ormaza, said that her staff has almost completed work on more than 600 items that were left unresolved by the previous administration. “We are almost finished and are concentrating now on completing training for the conductors,” she said. “In addition, we are advertising for the last 13 conductor positions and hope to have them filled soon.” She said that candidates must have university degrees in technology to qualify.

So when will the tram begin operations. “The city budget provides funding for a start-up in the second half of 2020 and this is what we are planning for,” Ormaza said. “We will begin conducting live tests early next year.”

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