Saturday, May 05, 2007

Getting Things in Train

After years of false starts and delays, Lima may be about to get its long-awaited electric train system. Peruvian TV reported that the bidding process will begin this month for construction and operation of Line 1, which will link the south of the city with central Lima.

The project was first conceived in the late 1980s, during the disastrous first term of Alan Garcia. A special authority was constituted to oversee the project's development, but it has become known as the "ghost train", after twenty years of delay and $400 million USD squandered. Just 9.8 km of track has so far been constructed, linking Villa El Salvador with San Juan de Miraflores.

The successful tenderer will be expected to begin construction in January next year of the remaining 14 km in Line 1, which will continue through to the plaza Grau in central Lima. They will have a 30-year concession for operating the train line. A spokesman for the metro authority estimated that it would carry 300,000 passengers daily - a total of around 100 million per year

Lima is the last Latin American city of its scale not to have a mass-transit system. Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo , Santiago de Chile and Medellin already have comprehensive metro systems, while Bogota has a network of guided busways.

Implementation of the electric train is part of the Municipality of Lima's grand plan for adressing the city's transport problems, which include traffic congestion, pollution, 1200 accidental deaths per year, and time-consuming and unsafe transit for citizens.

Understandably, some locals remain sceptical about prospects for completion of the metro system. A shopkeeper asked for his opinion by aTV reporter, suggested that "maybe it will happen next century". When asked "don't you believe it?", he responded "No, I don't believe it".

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