THE EDITOR: The financial and technical monstrosity of the Rapid Rail (RR) hitherto incubated in Imbert’s secretive nest has at last now reared its head in the public domain after two abortive consultations that were scheduled for 18 and 19 January. But although NIDCO is the designated operator for building the RR and to whom the EMA issued the final Terms of Reference (TOR) on 24 December 2009 relating to the procedures to be observed for conducting the requisite Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conditional to the granting of the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) the Monday March 22 public engagement held at Kampo Restaurant Chaguanas was hosted by the TRINITRAIN Consortium. Not any single official from the EMA and NIDCO was present to answer to public concerns. The media, allegedly now under drug-lords influence but the custodians of democracy was blanked.
That is disrespectful to the people of Chaguanas.
The Citizens for Social Justice (CSJ) and the Cunupia Farmers Association (CFA) must be commended for revamping the pre-arranged format of that meeting. They drew to the attention of TRINITRAIN officials that at that first public interface the TOR was being violated since the requisite public/media notices to the general public who stand to be affected, to attend were not issued.
It must be pointed out that the EMA finalized and issued the final TOR to NIDCO for the initial City Gate to Chaguanas South stage of the RR last Xmas eve without any consultations being held with community-based groups/village councils located on the preferred alignment of the RR. The EMA also agreed that although the RR is T&T’s single biggest public investment to date estimated at TT$20bn the actual cost of the RR can be kept top secret from the tax-payers. The discussions/ arrangements concluded with all Ministries/State Agencies by TRINITRAIN on the RR are also not accessible to the public.
It was disclosed that the RR would be funded by a US$3bn loan from the French government to pay for French railway technology/construction to the three French Companies that make up the TRINITRAIN Consortium.
The Central-based CSJ and CFA made an excellent forensic analysis and assault on the RR at this public engagement and objected to it on the following major grounds:
- Government’s priorities are skewed since while the population is suffering from lack of water, health care, roads, drainage and other basic necessities it is prepared to spend over $20bn in an elephantine monstrosity with a French consortium whose reputation is suspect;
- It will be another blow to national food security and sovereignty when large productive farms are appropriated by the State;
- More than 500 homes will be demolished in their areas;
- The Coradia double-decker model of heavy train commuting at 100 mph is unsuitable for Trinidad and does not make good economic, social, commercial, political and transportation sense;
- The RR will lead to the regressive demise of the existing Chaguanas Business District. The old TGR Chaguanas Station was the fillip for growth here;
- The lack of availability of the requisite feasibility study on the proposed RR mass transit system is essential both for proper property valuation/acquisition and giving a cost-benefit analysis to tax-payers;
- Ancillary expenses such property acquisition costs, relocation of utilities, re-alignment of the CRH northwards, cost-overruns etc will send the capital expenditure to TT$27bn;
The CSJ will be seeking an injunction from the Environmental Commission to stop the current public consultations because of several violations of the TOR issued by the EMA.