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Blank Cheque Approach to the Rapid Rail
By Stephen Kangal
October 27, 2006
There are too many disturbing uncertainties, unknowns, adhocracy and uninformed speculation originating from the Works Minister on the billion dollar Rapid Rail System (RRS). This has resulted principally from a one- man Imbert railroading/misleading show. The prerequisite prior to the selection of the RRS as the preferred delivery system is the conduct of a proper feasibility study that is scientifically undertaken to determine;
Which independent body, certainly not Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), will carry out the above-mentioned critical exercise between now and December/January 2007 including the choice of the final route?
I understand that the PB Consultants who are doing the Comprehensive National Transportation Plan has been selected by Government as RRS consultants as well. PB recommended the RRS. This is a cleat case of conflict of interest and lacks transparency and value for money concerns.
- the most efficient use of our resources;
- the maximum-benefit minimum cost alternative between the use of the CRH and the PBR Routes as well as;
- the most suitable of the maxi, bus (road) and light train alternatives.
- All the cost implications accurately determined.
Overnight the actual cost of construction, repeat construction of the RRS according to Imbert has plummeted 56% from US$25m per mile to US$15 m per mile (from $15 bn to $6.6bn). This is not based on the T&T situation. Imbert has used references of the construction of recent train systems in India and China that have no relevance to the peculiar traffic situation in T&T. These are not light train passenger networks similar to the one to be introduced in T&T.
Have these estimates taken into account the critical terrain/settlement/ traffic peculiarities of the CRH and PBR options? Using the CRH is not the same as the PBR from a cost/revenue viewpoint.
Who arrived at the original $15 bn estimates? Does the new $ 6.5bn construction figure include the total capital cost relating to the procurement of the rolling railway stock and related IT equipment from say Bombardier?
Does Minister Imbert know the length/breadth of say 28 stations each designed to accommodate trains carrying 2,500 passengers to be built along the 59 kms from Diego Martin to Arima? Can we believe that the journey from Diego to Arima will take 28 minutes when there are so many station- two minutes- stops and endless road intersections to negotiate both on the PBR and CRH?
As of now taxpayers do not know:
We know nothing substantive of the RRS. We are being led into the shadow of the valley of debt by the adoption of a blank cheque-book approach to costing/funding of the RRS.
- the real, precise capital cost of introducing the RRS. The figure of TT$ 6.5bn is a guess that does not include at least building 40 stations, repair and storage yards, electronic signaling and control systems, spares etc.
- The precise route the RRS will follow and the differential in revenue expectation depending on the use of the PBR or CRH.
- The type of train to be introduced (light, heavy, tram, or "normal')
- the nature and extent of adverse traffic congestion resulting from construction of the RRS and the Interchange simultaneously
- accurate operating and maintenance expenditures. The estimated figure of TT$350m is a wild guess by Imbert and not based on a careful analysis.
- the future of the 250 Red Band Maxi Taxis and whether the RRS is superior to the privately owned but upgraded, subsidised and modernised maxi taxi system as a preferred delivery method.
- the risk of major train accidents at intersections, terrorist attacks, sabotage, power outages and consequent total shut down of the inflexible RRS.
- how the RRS will negotiate the Interchange and several other overpasses to be built along the CRH in cramped spaces?
- What will become of the 56" Caroni- Arena water main running south and parallel to the CRH over which the RRS may be built?
- Is there adequate land space for building of RRS stations on both tracks to accommodate 2500 passengers along the PBR/CRH since according to Imbert each train will carry 2,500 passengers (100 maxis) and the need for major private property acquisition and disruption of people's lives.
- The conflict between the constructing the RRS aerial power grid and that of existing T&TEC, TSTT and Flow.
- The competition posed by the 25-seater PBR maxi-taxis should the RRS be built south of the CRH and estimated revenue reduction.
- The serious risk of banditry and mugging proliferating on the RRS on trains and stations during non-peak hours and at nights.
- Government has announced that it will hand over implementation of its projects and policies to the Regional Corporations and therefore the amount of people travelling to POS will be reduced and not be increasing to the extent that 50,000 people will not be travelling on the RRS daily.
- Has Government considered the noise pollution factor and property value reduction for those people living in the vicinity of the PBR and CRH?
- Will Imbert be consulting prior to the award of the contract for the RRS with all stakeholders including house- holders that stand to be adversely affected and inflict a fait accompli as the two smelters?