Medellín: Ayacucho Tram will begin service on 30 September 2015

Medellín: Ayacucho Tram will begin service on 30 September 2015

Medellin will roll out its Ayacucho Tram service on the 30th of September; it is the first of its kind in the country and considered to be another milestone for public transport in the city.

This is the date that has been set out for the inaugural service albeit restrictions and without its two (overhead) lines.

According to the information put forward by the Metro’s board of directors at the Concejo de Medellín (Council of Medellin), “the operation is planned to commence for 30th September 2015, after going through the testing of the vehicles (power and braking) and signalling control. So too will the elements of the tram line that monitor the routing, control and traffic safety be tested.”

Javier Darío Toro, Medellin’s Secretary for Infrastructure, said the planned start date for public service is a very important milestone. He added that from the end of April they will begin testing the vehicles between 37th Avenue (Carrera 37), along the whole of Ayacucho Street (49th Street), returning along 29th Avenue arriving at Miraflores metro station.

To ensure the safety of the users it is expected that the 12 tram coaches will arrive on this date. Six of the coaches are already in Medellin.

Similarly, it is expected that: the whole tram track between San Antonio and Oriente is completed, the electric operating system is finished and all six stops as well as three tram stations are ready complete with turnstiles and automatic platform barriers.

The line will consist of three transfer stations (San Antonio, Miraflores and Oriente) and six stops (San José, Cefa, Bicentenario, Buenos Aires, Loyola and Alejandro Echavarría). There are two (overhead) lines. The first is the Miraflores section, the M line (línea M), which will run to Barrio 13 de Noviembre.

The second is the Oriente (Alejandro Echavarría) section, the H line (línea H), which will run to Sierra.

Budget overruns and delays

Metro Medellín (el Metro de Medellín) has admitted to delays in the general construction and also to possible budget overruns in the construction of the overhead line on the Miraflores section, one of the two lines that will form the tram line.

Faced with allegations from the councilors of Medellin, Thomas Elejalde, Metro Planning Manager explained that the technical engineer has stood up and confirmed that in a month or so he will report on the situation. After an analysis they will know whether there has been a budget overrun, if any. “There are four European companies involved in the designs which appear to have obvious short comings” Elejalde said.

However, the delay in the construction of overhead lines at the Miraflores section is an estimated one to two months, which most likely will result in unconfirmed budget overruns.

Councilors’ visit

Yesterday morning, the city council discussed, in the council’s debating enclosure (recinto de sesiones), the progress of the construction undertaken thus far.

After the debate concluded, civil servants travelled to the Tram line’s construction site.

The councilor, Bernardo Alejandro Guerra, has repeatedly stated that, “all the obstacles of risk mitigation present difficulties, due to the poorly designed route of the Ayacucho Tram. The design, upgrading and rebuilding of walls, which will cost more than 10 billion pesos, is what is causing the project to run over budget.

Guerra Hoyos addressed the issue with the tram depots (the trams overnight location), where four of these coaches, each worth three million euros, will be stored. It is there, Guerra Hoyos said supporting local citizens’ concerns, “…three of the perimeter walls are unstable, one of which has already collapsed. The others are at risk of collapsing.”

Meanwhile, the councilor, Jesus Anibal Echeverri, revealed that budget overruns could top eight billion pesos. “All works should be completed by October,” he commented.

The city council’s president, Fabio Humberto Rivera, questioned during the tour: “I am no engineer, I’m a doctor, but my concern is, will this be ready by September?”

Loss of business

Shopkeepers and merchants alike have reiterated their worries about the losses recorded due to the construction. Mario Vásquez Alzate, president of the Association of the Traders of Commune 9 (Asociación de Comerciantes de la Comuna 9), pointed out that sales have fallen by almost 70%.

In addition, due to the economic losses, certain traders have let employees go and even well represented business such as the La Clarita ice cream shop, an icon in Ayacucho, has gone out of business. Twelve people worked in this establishment alone.

On this matter, the Metro Planning Manager explained that the City Hall of Medellin (Alcaldía de Medellín) has compensated car mechanics with 500 million pesos and other solutions are being looked at to compensate others within the same administrative district.