Metro Express: Living with the rails, no expert...

Avec le soutien de
There is no doubt that rail can and will be a major tool in further developing
the transport network, concludes the author.

The rail is a must, it can and will bring modernity to our traffic system. Phase 1 has been completed, Port-Louis to Rose-Hill is a reality. Mission accomplished? Yes and no, this solution has brought along a number of collateral issues of which many were forecasted, and others just popped out of the blue.

The Actors are, firstly the government, as this project has a heavy political connotation and there is nothing wrong about this.

Then there is the Metro Express Ltd, in other words the client supported by a number of consultants.

Larsen and Toubro is the contractor.

A range of authorities and services that fall under the central government are directly implicated, Police, CEB, CWA, Municipality, etc.

The other parties are the local inhabitants directly concerned with the works and a number of NGOs. Of course, such gigantic development come along with a certain level of annoyance. Those who excel in Project Management and who have the experience in forecasting all possible avenues always make sure that the disruptions are minimal both in time and in quality of life.

Promenade Roland Armand
Alongside Van der Meersch avenue, this longstanding site had been a gasp of fresh air for the locals. A place to burn fat, to socialize and surely to enjoy the benefits of living in a great town.

This iconic space was squashed in a matter of days, leaving no alternatives to the locals. It was promised a new area next to the CEB, works are still underway, the due date for the pompous opening ceremony is yet to be known.

What went wrong, is the fact that there was a plan to have a replacement recreation centre and that, instead of building this facility first before destroying the existing one, the contrary happened. The current location being primarily bush and unutilized land.

Services
Whilst carrying out works, both CWA and CEB were caught in the wagon and carried out upgrading of their facilities. Credit must be given to them for the synchronization but in doing so, the disturbances have been enormous.

Remember the number of fibre cables that went down, the number of pipes that blew up, power interruptions, the roads that had to be demolished and that have been poorly restored.

Failing to plan is planning to fail, communication
Families have been living in the region of the rail path for decades, they have been used to a certain road pattern. There have been changes with time and development. It has been done gradually and an adaption period is always required. For the past 18 months, the stress level has been enormous, and nobody knew what to expect, not MEL, not the locals.

Apparently, meetings were carried out at the Municipality to ease things. Well, if that is true, the impact has been minimal. Every day social media relates to a number of decisions and changes that have nothing to do with common sense and which are being imposed.

This is not about some efforts to be done. It is about fines and penalties issued if one does not change significantly one’s daily road routines, which by the way were perfectly fine.

Roads have been created, directions have been changed, accesses have been restricted or banned, most of them without notice, without proper communication.

Synchronicity
One of the biggest worries as from day one was and still is the cohabitation between rail and road users. Beau-Bassin is a nightmare, with the traffic lights that are not synchronized at all. There are 8 accesses at the former round-about and it is proving to be a nightmare to manage the traffic, 6 roads and 2 rails, not an easy task, this we must admit. It is even more complicated than the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, this also we must admit.

Whilst it was obvious that barriers must be installed, this option is being considered now. However, this will help in protecting not the tram, but most importantly the system from anarchic road users.

Some say that in other countries such barriers do not exist, Google says differently.

Facts vs paranoia
The physical part of the project is excellent. Infrastructure looks fine, the Urbos is definitely a good choice. The running conditions look good.

We need to ignore some facts such as water condensation, sudden stops that may cause chaos, crossing of stray dogs, faulty dispensers, faulty escalators and lifts, etc… these are daily realities for rail users throughout the planet.

The real worry remains the management of the facilities. In the past, there have been too many horrendous examples of perfectly fit government companies and parastatal bodies turning into turmoil, dire straits. The worry is legitimate, not wishful thinking.

Demographics and geography
The existence of substations implies that the locals will use the facilities. It also indicates that those further away may use their vehicles to get to the sub stations, this is confirmed by the presence of feeder buses and will undeniably create additional traffic around the sub stations.

Maybe sending feeder buses to main stations only for a start could be considered, as space for offloading is more prominent there. Some selected sub stations may be considered at a later stage.

Learning from the past
Moving on to the next phase, it looks that the same mistakes will be in the news again. Poor communication, poor planning in terms of road diversions.

Pipes will burst, fibre cables will be cut off, potholes will appear – can preventive measures be enforced? Certainly, but will these be activated soon? Not so sure.

The Quatre-Bornes segment will be a tough one as road and rail will go alongside. Will there be barriers? Are there any other options?

Annoyance
In these early days of operation, there has been a crazy suggestion: why does the tram not stop at all junctions and let the traffic flow. Why current cars and other vehicles do not have priority? Why suddenly the newcomer is the one that needs ultimate protection?

Some say that the design of the project is flawed from the beginning. This might explain the significant drop in the Capex.

Opportunities, present, future
There is no doubt that rail can and will be a major tool in further developing the transport network.

Extending the grid will be an ongoing task. Further to the South and most probably to the airport. North to Grand-Baie and the future will tell.

• Bringing A1 jet fuel from Port-Louis to the Airport.
• The Post Office to dispatch letters and parcels via the tram and main stations, that would act as hubs.
• No more duty-free car facilities.
• Encourage civil servants to use the tram during hours of duty, for site visits.

No expert, some thoughts…
When flags are raised, it does not mean criticism.
The Englishman says: there is a spot on your nose, but you can’t see it!

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