Rapid rail and productivity

Rapid Rail
Rapid Rail
By George Alleyne
September 15, 2010 – newsday.co.tt

The decision by the People’s Partnership Government not to proceed with the rapid rail project will result, if implemented, in the continued overcrowding of the nation’s roads and loss of productivity in the work place and the classrooms.

Countless thousands of workers and schoolchildren will continue to arrive at work and school under needless stress occasioned by traffic jams and requiring time to unwind thus, effectively, reducing their output.

The multi-passenger rapid rail trains would have been positioned to lift, say, 800 to 1,000 each as opposed to the four or five-seater conventional taxi or private car; the 12-24 passenger maxi taxi and the larger 50-passenger bus. In turn, the utilisation of rapid rail would have meant that far less gasolene and compressed natural gas would be needed on an annual or five to ten-year basis, thus releasing the volume of energy saved to earn additional valuable foreign exchange.

The discarding of the rapid rail programme could not or rather should not have been based on the initial cost of laying down the tracks, acquiring the trains and operating the system.

Clearly, hundreds of millions of dollars would be saved annually through workers reaching their places of employment well in time and stress free.

Additionally, the man hours saved would make the country’s products, whether energy based or non-energy based, that much more competitive, not only in regional and international markets but in the domestic market as well. It would have been a plus as the nation moved toward diversification of its economy. The introduction of rapid rail would have, tacitly, subsidised manufacturing costs of many a product and this would have been reflected in increased demand for our goods and services.

In the meantime, it would have been myopic for the People’s Partnership Administration to have viewed what clearly should have been a smooth running and efficient service in terms of profit and loss.

Was it not Guido Moss, the celebrated United States transport expert, who had been sent to Trinidad and Tobago by the US Operation Mission to the West Indies to advise on the establishment of a transport system, who would state: “Public ownership of transport is very generally operated at a financial loss”?

Admittedly, Moss, who submitted his Report and recommendations on February 20, 1961, had been commissioned to investigate bus transport.

Nevertheless, his arguments with respect to the multi-passenger bus as opposed to the conventional taxi could be employed today for rapid rail in relation to even the buses and, certainly, the maxis and taxis.

Let me quote Moss: “With its five passengers per taxicab compared to 50 passengers for a bus, ten taxicabs are required to carry the load of one bus.” Similarly, for one train lifting, say, 1,000 passengers, 200 five-passenger taxis would be needed and 20 50-passenger buses!

This Column is not presenting a case for a replacement of conventional taxis, maxi taxis or Public Transport Service Corporation buses by rapid rail, but instead is advancing the argument of optimum utilisation of land space, hassle free journeys and greater productivity. The economic benefits, as noted earlier, are clear and important.

What would have been important as well would have been the effective marketing of the rapid rail system. This would have included marketing the spin off benefits of promoting stress free travel, on time arrival at offices and job sites and classrooms, greater productivity in the work place leading to TT goods being more competitive.

Meanwhile, if the People’s Partnership Government had reservations about the cost of the rapid rail cars and models which the previous People’s National Movement government had accepted, it could have considered other makes and designs.

The cost per ticket per person would have been higher than travelling, say, by maxi taxi, conventional taxi or PTSC bus. But the journeys would have been hassle free in air conditioned comfort. Residents offering their patronage would have been guided by time tables.

The former railway service which was phased out on December 28, 1968, had been around for almost a century. This Column is of the view that all may not be lost with rapid rail and that it will one day make a needed contribution to the industrial and economic development of Trinidad and Tobago.


26 thoughts on “Rapid rail and productivity”

  1. “Clearly, hundreds of millions of dollars would be saved annually through workers reaching their places of employment well in time and stress free.”

    The rapid rail project would have cost too much money to build and while it would have benefitted workers in the long term the cost of keeping a system of this nature would have resulted in millions being spent with no real gain.

    The government could revisit this project by clearly identifying route and simply building about 2 kilometers each year so that cost can be lowered. The chinese are the cheapest when it comes to building such things. They can do it in record time also. Even India buys rail carriages from them.

    To ease the long distances people travel to get to work, the government and industry can look at relocating businesses out of the busy areas. Most people would prefer spending about 20 minutes commuting to and from work.
    Businesses can be set up in the homes of employees, with a once per week commute to headquaters. Today’s technology allows for this to be possible. A computer, telephone, fax and printer is sometimes all that is needed to work. Communication makes work a lot easier.

    In the mean time the government will have to build better roads and develop better communications systems.

    1. “To ease the long distances people travel to get to work, the government and industry can look at relocating businesses out of the busy areas. Most people would prefer spending about 20 minutes commuting to and from work.
      Businesses can be set up in the homes of employees, with a once per week commute to headquaters. Today’s technology allows for this to be possible. A computer, telephone, fax and printer is sometimes all that is needed to work. Communication makes work a lot easier.:

      It will be interesting to see how the PP handle development issues (If they last).. Hot topic as Laventille is one to watch.. Trends show that young professional are moving BACK into cities, and WHITE FLIGHT now means CHOCOLATE CITIES are becoming extinct (ent Curtis?).. How could these trends play out in that experiment called T&T, and POS to be specific.
      Maybe Telecommuting could have a chance in T&T’s since Government is not pressed for the ‘GAS TAX’.. or the Auto industry does not have as much clout on influencing policy here.. But then again, we have the Minister of Works and Transport gearing up to make your ‘car’ the focus of the ‘new property tax’.. Speed Cams included.

    2. Hi I agree wholeheartedly with the initial post. Investment in any infrastructure is always costly,but it is a fundamental investment which fosters any nation’s capacity to increase production.

  2. Thank you for this blog.

    So far, all the arguments I have seen against the Rapid Rail implementation, have focused on the costs.

    Until now, I have not see any article, that is so accurately focused on the current, and future benefits, of putting such a system in place.

    Indeed, some have argued against the system, while proposing arguments that create the illusion that Trinidad and Tobago will forever be stuck in its present physical environment.

    I have seen entire communities and industries crop up around the construction of one simple rapid rail station.

    The Peoples Partnership epitomizes Vision 1820.

    1. It cost about 1/2 billion just to do a feasibility study for the project so we are not talking about small change. I suggest bringing in Chinese expertise (they are building rails all the way to Pakistan) and building a few kilometers per year. Trinidad had the rails long before my time until people started getting their legs and other body parts emaciated and the baby was thrown out with the bathwater.
      I am sure the PP has not given up on the idea and sometime in the future this will be revisited.

  3. So they hate land taxes, and this rapid railroad project , yet do not wish to share our abundant state lands with those in needs , and is desirous in taking away the limited ones of Tobago citizens to push religious dogma in that island, to benefit an obscure minority, while showing these desperate citizens ,the middle finger, each time some one dares to mention the long overdue incomplete Hospital .
    Money is a problem according to Dookie, but they can pay a foreign Canadian Commissioner a salary that is more than the last 5 past locals altogether , and the top 1000 frontline crime fighters perhaps of the police service combined.
    They are against the smelter plant ,just like in the past with the proposed Caroni Race Track, but don’t mind giving the entire blueprints away to Guyana , and paying the hefty penalties for failing to take care of contractual agreements with initials construction company.Bail out the crooks at HCU,and ‘titivaying’ on Panday and his financially crooked Ish, and Bish is it?
    Grand supporters of Privy Council, at the expense of Caribbean Court, but boastful about cultural support,national independence, and selective implementation of the barbaric death penalty.
    Silent on internet affordability for common folks , but quick to push some obscure pro Laptop policy. Where is the long term help for the age, often sick and in need of family support pensioners
    As usual, an excellent ,and insightful piece brother Alleyne. In it you’ve highlighted a style of government that is unable to appreciate their role in advancing the needs of the nation ,as a whole , as opposed to a grand scheme to push the interest of a narrow margin of the population.
    Think of the missed opportunities in terms of future jobs,and as you so wisely mentioned ,the chance at lowering of stress levels by grateful workers, and families ,moving to and from work,as well as ease on pollution to the national environment,and boost to our overall development.

    1. “So they hate land taxes, and this rapid railroad project , yet do not wish to share our abundant state lands with those in needs”

      Currently in Trinidad there is a population density of 654 person per square mile. Now subtract the Northern, Central and Southern ranges along with the Caroni, Oropuche and Nariva swamp and suddenly you do not have much land left Nealos. Caroni lands should be retained for agriculture, animal husbandry and timber production. Some of it can be used for homes but not all as you have suggested Nealos. While part of it can be used for industrial complexes.

      Caroni lands was under agricultural production and what I am suggesting is in keeping with the idea that a nation must grow it’s own food. NO industrialized nation depends totally on food imports. They have large farms managed by farmers who produce milk and various agricultural products. Putting the land to good use is vitally important for future generations.

      Further to all of this the Northern range has been subjected to “premature balding”. Slash and burn methods have increase flooding. The government must now move quickly to put legislation in place identifying areas where conservation is necessary. That means the ranges should be designate as areas where slash and burn methods is outlawed. They should not be growing food up there. (sometimes marijuana too). Those who are doing that should be charge. In third world nation the major causes of flooding is slash and burn methods employed by the unlearned.

      1. i agree with preserving Caroni lands for agriculture especially since it consist of the most fertile soil in the country along with areas in Chagaramas. There is no need to convert land that is best suited for agriculture for other uses. Such undertaking are explanations why some countries who have made such a mistake are unable to have high crop yields.

  4. Another short sighted and not well thought out decision by this gov’t of gimmicks! I predict a short one term for this.

  5. Nort only short-sighted, but also like Jack Warner’s decision to hold off providing the travelling public with 35 buses earlier provided by the PNM … pure spite. Spiting the populace to try to either make the PNM look bad, or not to look good.

  6. The PP government representatives have spent twice as much time attacking the Opposition PNM than they have spent defending their first budget. In fact, two speakers spent all their time, in addition to an added 30 minutes doing this. One of them accused the PNM of making more young men of drinkink rum. He accused the PNM of introducing foreign ideas into T&T but at the same time he quoted, to make his point, froeign leaders like Theodore Roosevelt, and never anybody from the Caribbean or from T&T. Talk about being confused?

  7. I am known to be a bit slow , and additionally, being an extremely objective , non partisan commentator , was willing to give the PP , the benefit of the doubt as to their authenticity. However,after careful considerations, I am beginning to think that cousin Mike ,and TriniObserver might just be on to something here with their astute commentaries- which seems to be a cry that the advantages to the country for the Rapid rails, far outweighs any negatives, as claimed by pro medieval thinkers , and fans , that believe a railroad is an excellent idea,as long as it is not in congested , unproductive , Trinidad and Tobago.
    I stand corrected , your serve Khem. What an apologist , for a clueless bunch!
    Hopefully the overpaid political handlers , are driving along this information highway, as well as listening to the views of the real voters that count, can take some constructive criticism ,and are prepared to do some tweaking of a certain unpalatable, four year plan.
    I do not mind seeing our austere PNM crew, wilting a bit more in the Opposition back benches, as it could be a humbling experience, and more importantly, provide an opportunity for the advancement of a real political party to destroy the arrogant , PNM / UNC monopoly, and stranglehold on the nation, that’s led by political leaders with a caring heart, and some ideas as to what it takes to build a cohesive nation.
    T stand corrected.

    1. Neal, claiming to be a bit slow might confirm what others might not even have suspected. Over to you amigo.

  8. For information of all who are begging for the Rapid Rail and making all types of claims of increased productivity, let me advise that getting to work early does not equate to increased productivity. There are are a number of other more significant factors such attitude to work, motivation,supervision, politics etc. Let us all go along with the idea whether you like it or not or would have preferred during the last days of your life to ride a fast train in T&T, that there will be no rapid rail. The plan for the PP Government is to decentralize government offices so that there will be less of a need to travel to Port of Spain. So we would be able to transact all business in districts for example vehicular licences,

    1. “The plan for the PP Government is to decentralize government offices so that there will be less of a need to travel to Port of Spain. So we would be able to transact all business in districts for example vehicular licences,”

      Makes complete sense to me. I bet Nealos is confused by these suggestions. The world Nealos is changing, commuting far distances is no longer practical when work could even be done in your home, saving office space, electricity, wasted time socializing, long lunch hours, long commute and weaker families.

      It is time you and your tribal cousins come into the 21st century my friend…

      1. “Tribal cousins”? This type of phrase is what is called a “Sat Maharaj”: unbecoming, oafish, racist to the core and dumb-ass all over!

    2. The prime objective of Rapid Rail is to reducee the costs inherent in travel that uses fossil fuels, a finite resource and one responsible for Global Warming.

      Tha attitude of the workforce is another matter and in no way related here. What is relevant here is a government setting an example of being responsible and using the resources of the country in ways which are most beneficial to present and to future generations.

      Thus the decisiob of moth-balling the Rapid Rail plans, primarily because it is a PNM project is at best short-sighted and at best treacherous and unpatriotic.

      Surely such examples will hardly give the work force an example to follow that is mature and productive.

      In fact, unlike what one of the PP presenters said in dealing with the budget, and I quote, ” a people are the shadow of the country’s leaders …” He is wrong.

      It is not the leaderss who make the people, but since the leaders comes from among the people, it is the leaders who are a shadow of the people.

      Therefore, T&T politicians and leaders will not improve until the electorate become more astute, mature and patriotic; and patriotic not to any party: PNM, COP, PP or else, but to T&T, period!

  9. For those who like and support this government, anything they do is OK. Rapid Rail is a solution, one that provides practical and necessary modes of transport that will definitely ease the need to drive and be part of the congestion. Yes, this government has the power to say NO to it’s implementation but I say that is shortsighted and foolhardy. The constant refrain that it’s cost is prohibitive does not make sense. Your traffic woes only multiplies and all of your proposals so far are NOT soluable. PH taxis, use of PBR by private cars, use more maxis, buy more boats, increase capacity on buses are all ideas that are temporary fixes but rapid rail can SOLVE these problems. Throughout the many years that I have known governments, they have always chose the cowardly paths to solutions, ‘get something cheaper’, ‘get a substitute’, ‘do something else’, ‘go somewhere else’ but never bite the bullet and do what is supposed to be done.
    So what! if the cost is very high! The solution here is to do the damn thing by starting the project and stretching its completion. If we require 400 miles of rail, why can we start by building 100 every two years? Or phase it so that it would not be a strain on the budget.

    1. “Yes, this government has the power to say NO to it’s implementation but I say that is shortsighted and foolhardy.”

      The government has not said “no” they have simply said it cost too much to build with possibly little benefit at this time. Instead the government is doing the right thing. They have begun a process of decentralization. A UWI campus is Sando, another in Tobago. They must move forward with an agressive plan of decentralization in order to stem the stop the unnecessary commute in and out of Port of Spain.

      Port of Spain is the Jewel in the PNM crown, so I don’t expect the PP to have too much loyalty towards that PNM Jewel. I would say each department should begin the process of decentralization. In today’s world a computer, fax machine, cellphone and other communication devices are readily available for all, so why does someone need to commute into the horrible traffic in POS each day, when the same job could be done in their home or near their home.

      The UNC started decentralization when Sadiq as Works Minister opened a branch of Ministry of Works in Sando.
      So all that I am saying is nothing new. If the government decentralize rapidly then there will be no need for a rail system in T&T….

  10. I can see the smile on sister Teewaree’s face at the thought of her congested, unplanned ,corrupted Chargurnas becoming the capital of Trinidad, as Tobago ,while most of the non central , East /West corridor, and all areas where dem mainly black ,kinky head ,big butts, thick lips,useless, non productive , lazy, former slave bastadized ,by products enclaves,remain dungheaps of social under developing ,just like occurred under the useless PNM since 1962.
    Oh what , a tragedy indeed! Hey Krishna, and similar conniving , disingenuous Trini so called friends,be forewarned ,and or remember to pay attention to the words of perhaps de wisest woman dat ever lived, – “de longest rope has an end,” and ‘love country over de tribe,’ hmmmm?

    1. I am not trying to be political but I believe the decision to halt the rapid rail project was bad.
      In-fact, I believe many of the other projects halted would have contributed to the continued economic growth of Trinidad and Tobago. What are the current plans for future economic growth?
      Seriouly, Trinidad and Tobago needs proper infrastructure in order to be productive and competitive in the world market. Foreign investors invest their resources in countries in which productive is assured, such as China and India etc. Workers in these countries are very dedicated to their employers and work extremely hard. The average Trinidadian and Tobagoian worker has a relaxed atitude on the job.
      While the rapid rail would have decreased travel-time to work no great gain in productive could have ever been realized without changes to workers’ atitudes. Anyway, the rapid rail was a first step in the right direction. At least, it would have got employees to work on time. The second step, motivating workers to be more productive
      (a challenge) definitely would be needed.

  11. The rapid Raid wasoneof the best ideas the PNM has ever come up with. I foresaw the easing of congestion on the road and a safe and fast way to get from point A to point B. I can’t wait for this party PP toserve their term and be voted out,they are intent on keeping T&Tin the 18th century, look at what they did with the OPV. Druglords will have free reign and our fishermen will continue to be attacked.

    1. You are right about keeping Trinidad and Tobago in the 18th century. Trinidad and Tobago have the resources and should have been more developed. For instance, Singapore a country with the approximate size and population but lack natural resources is more developed than Trinidad and Tobago.
      Singapore’s leadership definitely had a vision many years ago in order to be at this point today.
      Trinidad and Tobago is ideally located to the Singapore of Latin America and the Caribbean.
      Please Trinidad and Tobago stop the politics!


  13. they stick they get the click they have themselve to blame thus simple? Remember the electorate aka the citizens of Trinidad are the ones who suffer when good policies aren’t implemented.

Comments are closed.