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Abort the Light Railway Hoax
Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2005

By Stephen Kangal

Former Transport Minister Franklin Khan unveiled several grandiose highway projects with the clear intention of buying time and generating high public expectations of relieving traffic congestion that they know cannot be fulfilled. One such pie in the sky scheme is the proposed construction of a light railway along the existing Priority Bus Route. This is a nonsensical plan. Taken together with its proposed North-South counterpart it must be aborted in the interest of not clogging up the PBR, CRH and EMR and inviting traffic chaos during the construction stages.

Government must profit from the experiences of the two most recent light railways established in London, namely the Docklands Light Railway and the Croydon Tramlink. The latter used Bombardier Electric Rolling Stock and was constructed over a two-year period involving massive, disruptive suspension of normal traffic along the construction route. In fact at present only a few buses and local traffic are allowed to use roads along which the Croydon Tramlink operates. To establish a light railway along the PBR will mean that red band maxis, PBR authorised vehicles and PSTC buses will no longer be able to use this corridor. A tram system must be accorded exclusive and unrestricted use of its track system. To contemplate the building of an elevated, pylon-suspended light railway system is even more elephantine foolishness. A light railway cannot accommodate the existing and future volume of passengers using the PBR/EMR. The novelty of the light railway is its only appeal.

What is really needed to streamline and expedite East-West and North South traffic flow is a completely new Expressway that originates in the Caroni Swamp south of the of the Maritime Flyover. This will conduct and facilitate East and South Bound traffic away from the existing bumper to bumper CRH. It will connect to South along the expanded, third lane Butler Highway and eastwards to the Airport and beyond with strategic link roads to the CRH, PBR, SMR and EMR.

A new six lane Expressway bridge is needed over the Caroni River. The over-ambitious political football called the Interchange can be abandoned and replaced by a simple East –West Overpass once the Proposed Expressway is adopted. Building the Expressway will not disrupt any traffic.

In my view the Red Band Maxi System that operates along the PBR is the most cost effective and efficient private transportation system in the world. It should not be touched but subsidised by Government to encourage private individual investments and entrepreneurship. A light railway system that involves massive public expenditures to install, operate and maintain offers nothing superior to our privately operated maxi taxis.

Let it be noted that it is only a matter of time before the existing south bound Butler Highway Caroni River bridge collapses under the increasing weight and escalating density of traffic that it was not built to sustain. Try walking on the bridge to assess the wobbling, pounding effects of the traffic as I did while en route to photograph the island rapidly developing where the St. Joseph River empties into the Caroni.

I am not sure that Government’s traffic engineers are aware of this potential catastrophic traffic disaster waiting to happen.

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