Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera says work will continue on the Tranvia de los Cuatro Rios, Cuenca’s light rail system, but says he still needs more budget and construction schedule information. In a Friday press conference, he also said that he is concerned about the project’s impact on Cuenca’s historic district.
Cabrera returned from Europe last week after meeting with members of the UNESCO staff who had reviewed and approved tram project plans. Because it has designated Cuenca’s historic district as a World Heritage Site, a UNESCO sign-off is required on major development plans in the district.
A team from UNESCO will visit Cuenca in July, Cabrera said, to go over project details that will affect the historic district, including the tram route. A spokeman for the mayor said that there would be no further tram work in the district until the UNESCO team visit.
Cabrera continues to complain about the lack of project information provided by former mayor Paúl Granda’s staff. “Since we had to figure out so many things for ourselves, the process has been delayed,” Cabrera said. “We need a financial evaluation urgently and this could cause construction delays.”
Cabrera had requested budgets, contracts and other planning documents regarding the project following the election, in which he defeated Paúl Granda, but says he received very little. “What we were getting were PowerPoint programs intended for the general public.”
Following review of documents since he took office, Cabrera says the project was pooly managed by the Granda administration. “From the beginning, the project was disorganized and chaotic,” he said. “We’re still trying to get a handle on it. I have a responsibility to the people of Cuenca and this is my first priority.”
Cabrera says that any construction delays would be short and would be intended to clarify plans. “Many of the components for the tram are already being assembled, the rails, the rolling stock and equipment for the stations, so we cannot at this time make major changes. If we did, we would incur major financial penalties,” he said. “We have to honor exisiting contracts.”
During the mayoral campaign, Cabrera suggested making a number of major alterations to the project, including changing the route.
During his visit to France, Cabrera and his team visited the Alstom factory where the tram cars and rails are being constructed. “Work is well underway on the components,” he said. The first equipment deliveries are expected in January.
On the issue of the temporary work stoppage in the historic district, tram project manager Gerardo Fernandez says it will not affect the overall project schedule. “Very little has been done there anyway and delaying it will not be a factor in the overall plans,” he said. “It can wait until after the UNESCO visit.” He added that the project has all the work it can currently handle on the Av. Las Americas section of the project.
The tram is being constructed at a cost of $230 million and is based on a design used in 42 cities around the world.
Photo captions: Cuenca’s Tranvia rolling stock will look like this one in France; Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera