By Stephen Kangal
January 12, 2007
Arrogance and insensitivity continues to cloud what little judgment is left in Works Minister, Colm Imbert, in dealing with the increasing chorus of critics of his billion-dollar Trinidad Rapid Rail (TRRP) elephantine monstrosity. Imbert as a servant of the people must curb his penchant for discrediting and impugning the integrity of the TRRP messengers with the hope that their message will be ignored and seen as self-serving. Imbert and Manning are driven by objectivity. The rest of us in T&T are influenced by emotions especially when we disagree with their smelters and rail monstrosities.
These messengers from the JCC/APETT Team that appeared on CNC3 are calling for accountability, transparency and value-for-money concerns to be factored into Imbert’s adhocratic modus operandi in treating with the TRRP. They want a level playing field and not another Piarco feeding frenzy trough. In return Imbert brands them ” a special interest group” with “sectarian interest” bent on stopping his TRRP because their SNC Lavalin tender failed. He is always attributing an underlying motive to his detractors and not listening to their message.
I also have been the target of the venom and vitriol issued by Imbert. When I am finished with the prosecution of my case on the TRRP he will decline from a “douen” to a snail.
The more Imbert speaks in Parliament the more and more I am convinced that there is more in the TRRP mortar than the pestle. Is there a plane-train connection? With respect to the proposed route of the TRRP Imbert is a jumping jack going from the CRH (Senate 17 Nov. Statement) to the PBR (after the floods) and now back to the CRH (House Statement of 15 Dec.).
Imbert relies almost exclusively for his pro-TRRP justification on the advice of discredited rail consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB). They were fired for conflict of interest because of having secretive Bombardier connections. He fails to mention that Bombardier is also part of the Vinci Consortium, one of the two French bidders that will get the TRRP contract.
Is it not strange that two years after the foolish closure of the Trinidad Government Railways (TGR) by the PNM in 1965, a 1967 Transport Study recommended the restoration of the rail option and Imbert has the gall to say so. Will the PNM now re-introduce the sugar industry when it realizes its folly in the context of the ethanol/cellulose cash cow factors?
I am completely flabbergasted that no where in all his vaunted discourses does Imbert acknowledge the critical role that the Victor George’s privately owned Route Two Maxi-Taxis play as the principal mode of mass transit in the East-West Corridor at present? They do not figure at all in his future transport plans even though they have bailed out Government for years. For him these small business entrepreneurs do not exist because there is no room for kick-backs and corruption. He will cast them aside for his mega- TRRP. NIDCO, the executing state enterprise has no previous project management experience in the TRRP and is groping in the dark on the TRRP as is Minister Imbert.
According to Imbert, an hour’s journey today (by what means he does not say) along the CRH and the Butler Highway will in 2012 take 40 minutes and 20 minutes in 2015. An hour’s journey in peak time today will take you at present from Curepe Roundabout to the Uriah Intersection along the CRH and from the Sanctuary Flyover to the CRH along the Butler. What is Imbert telling us? What is the TRRP connection?
He also assured that express trains would cover the Arima-POS journey in 28 minutes. You cannot run express and local trains simultaneously on two tracks. Talk about lie, Imbert, that is a small-island white lie!
Why does not Imbert build the Southern Link Expressway to divert eastbound traffic away from the CRH and the PBR on the north or south banks of the Caroni River and solve our traffic gridlock. This can be done without any interference with the existing traffic situation. This will cause traffic going to Curepe and further eastwards to use this new route. It will also serve as an express route to and from the Airport.
He now discredits the Expressway by saying that it will cost $3bn and take nine years to build because of the need for environmental clearances. Why not add the fourth lane to the CRH eastbound and simultaneously build the Southern Link Expressway because while you build over-passes at the Aranguez and El Socorro intersections the existence of intersections east of the proposed Interchange will still continue to create the gridlock. Imbert is exaggerating the problems with the Freeway to justify his TRRP that also needs major environmental impact assessment studies and widespread stakeholder consultations.
There are no immediate and viable solutions to mitigate and reduce the Westbound POS- Lighthouse traffic gridlock except Governmental decentralistion of its offices. The PNM will never support this because their proverbial navel strings are buried in the POS Savannah in many ways that protect and promote the “divine right- to- rule monopoly of the center over the neglected periphery.”