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Tuesday tram run is first of a series of daytime tests as system prepares for its March start-up

The tram passes Santo Domingo Plaza during Tuesday test. (El Telegrafo)

As a five-car unit of Cuenca’s Tranvía de los 4 Rios de Cuenca rolled through the historic district Tuesday, hundreds of bystanders gathered along the train tracks to watch and snap photos. The tram, which traveled from the train yard on Av. Mexico to the industrial park in the northeast, made several runs back and forth along the 20.4 kilometer route.

According to city tram director Jaime Guzmán the test was successful and marks the beginning of more daytime runs. Until Tuesday, most tests were conducted after 10 p.m. at night to avoid vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

The tram stops at the Feria Libre station on Av. Las Americas on Tuesday.

“Over the next three months, it’s important that the public see and interact with the train as part of our information campaign to acquaint people with the rules,” he said. “The first thing they must remember is that the tram will always have priority along the route. Cars and pedestrians must pay attention to the traffic signals and yield right of way.”

During Tuesday’s tests, police and citizen guards preceded the train to clear the route of cars parked close to the tracks and to warn pedestrians to stand clear. “There were more people and cars crossing the tracks in front of the train than we could like but considering that the official information campaign has not begun, we were pleased generally with the public response,” Guzmán said. “In January and February we will begin issuing citations to vehicles and pedestrians for violations of the rules.”

He added that Cuenca is following the same start-up protocol used in other cities that introduce tram systems. “There is a well-established system for introducing trams throughout the world and they have proven effective,” Guzmán said.

During Tuesday’s tests along the Av. Las America’s route and through the historic district, trains traveled at speeds as high as 55 kph (34 mph) and performed a number of start-and-stop maneuvers. Checks were also made of the electronic sensors along the track that will space train units on the the route.

“Overall, we are very pleased with today’s test,” Guzmán said. “Most important is the fact that people saw the tram in action. They understand now that the tracks are not gathering rust.”