TRIBUNE: Metro Leger/LRT, solution of or contributor to traffic problems ?

1. Since 1994 I have criticized all sorts of Governments whenever the issue of Light Rail Transport (LRT)/Metro Leger has been raised. The reasons are obvious: who wants to pay some Rs 160/- a single ticket from Port Louis to Curepipe, crammed 6 to 8 passengers per square metre (ie. standing) and completing the single journey in some one hour and fifteen minutes . I am stressing the details further on, and am offering solutions.
2. Let me first criticize the present decision of the present Government of Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam (NR), who has great respect for Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (SSR). Labour party supporters and Mauritians in general should know that, when it comes to public transport, drastic fundamental differences exist between the two, viz:

I was the first chief engineer at the NTC and I know the philosophy of SSR well, and I did my best to make it work. Up to the public to appraise the new attitude.
3. If you think that SSR was correct, as I do, then you will probably ask the question of why governments have allowed LRT report writing to drag on for same two decades. Political decisions are “secrets of the Goods”. Mere mortals are never meant to ask questions.
However I will try to lay down questions I have asked over the years for analysis.
(a) Why is it that the MSM led government of the 90’s (i) did not release reports on the LRT promptly, and (ii) had its leader reply to parliamentary questions on the LRT personally instead of allowing the transport minister to do so?
(b) Why is it that the MSM/MMM government of 2000-2005 fought an election on the basis of a bus-way and after victory went on and on with new LRT reports – without changing much in public transport?
(c) Why has the present labour party opted for an LRT when the same labour – led government of 2005-2010 was in favour of a bus-way/bus-lane?
Build bus-ways, use flexi time at work
In all probability (… only the Gods know for sure) there must be international pressure on our backs. Young people should know that the equipment for our national airport was purchased by a British firm called Plessey, at an exorbitant cost. Youngsters may also wish to know that Sir Aneerood Jugnauth (SAJ) finally produced a letter to show that Mrs Thatcher, Prime Minister of the UK, “forced” us to select Plessey… where her son was a prominent member.
Solution: why don’t all political parties agree that the LRT is wrong and oppose external pressures forthwith? Build bus-ways, use flexi time at work, move activities away for Port Louis, build flyovers in all necessary places… all useful but vain suggestions over the years.
4. LRT costs and fares
In London the ratio of a metro ticket to a “bus+tramway” ticket is 4:1. Without the tramway the ratio will easily climb to 5:1. So, without subsidies, your fare from P. Louis to Curepipe will be around Rs 160 for a single trip (i.e. Rs 320 return ticket).
Let not the MBC fool you with ECO-TV where one speaker said “we do not know the price, but we think it will be a little more than that of a bus”… such people should not be allowed to come and fool the public — it is straight forward brainwashing/misleading.
In Malaysia/Kuala Lumpur, they tried a prorata price of Rs 42 — within years “star” LRT went bankrupt the tune of Rs 43 billions… What about the Greeks, jealous of other Europeans, who build a metro system recently ? They are now wailing about this and other stupid debts they contracted. And there are lots of similar examples.
Morality: “Do live within your means. When the financial tsunami strikes, you regret bitterly”
Immorality: Companies that are associated with countries that are not cost-competitive to sell buses to us (unlike Asian countries) are trying to sell us a horrid rail system. When Europe has failed, some of its members are trying to bail themselves and at the expense of those who knew how to save… “la cigale et la fourmie” of la Fontaine says it all.
5. LRT speeds
Typically commercial speeds are 20km/h or even less, eg. Strasbourg and Tunis. Port Louis to Curepipe will take 1 hour and 15 minutes, if not more in Mauritius. Let’s not be fooled by nice pictures of the French TGV or “images de syntheses” of LRTs that do not exist: these are only “attrape nigauds”. Even the superior MRT of Singapore takes 66 minutes to cover a line there.
By the way why do Singaporean “experts” want us to use LRT when they themselves use the superior MRT? LRTs are only very mini-lines there…
6. Comfort
Typical LRTs pack passengers 6-8 per square metre in third world countries. In other words passengers will be crammed in the standing position at peak hours? Who wants that?
Another MBC, ECO-TV speaker was made to say that the system is non-polluting. How absurd: more pollution will be produced by the CEB at production centres, e.g. at Plaine Lauzun to choke people at Cité Vallijee, Pailles and Grand River North West at least.
Now how about workers entering the LRT with sweat all over, isn’t this pollution? European countries have lower temperatures and people sweat less, so the problem is not so acute there.
Experts hide in their offices
Stupidities are rife when promoters of the LRT are on the go for contracts. I was shocked when I read Week–end of 20/11/2011: your newspaper gathered that Government was contemplating an elevated system…, let’s see a civil engineering example everyone can understand.
We, Mauritians readily start our houses with our savings. And most manage to get the walls ready as well. Then, there are those who contract a loan to finish the building. Others get a grant for root/slab of Rs 60,000/- from Government, a laudable initiative that’s been going on for quite some time now.
Morality: Building a slab at ground level is easy, but an elevated one is much more expensive. In fact, up to about seven times, depending upon the details.
Immorality: If Rs 25 billion at grade is already exorbitant for an LRT, what about Rs 175 billion or even Rs 100 billion for an elevated LRT? This is larger than the national budget…
The tragedy is that “experts” hide in their offices and behind MBC Cameras and rarely engage an open debate. When one from the World Bank, Dr David Lupton, came up (around 2003), he was badly battered and presented flat excuses.
In the past two decades there’s not been a single televised debate on the LRT… on a subject costing no less than one third of the national budget. Fortunately there’s a free newspaper like week-end in Mauritius.
LRT? Do you know that a “metro léger” is not light? e.g. one vehicle in Strasbourg has a mass of over 90 tonnes when a bus comes in at just over 6 tonnes… Liars all the way. This is the typical wheeler-dealer capitalist system, not the proper one, that has failed the U.S and Europe. Check my figures on the internet and wherever you can. When you find that they are correct, tell your relatives and friends. We do not want to be fleeced, do we?
Finally a simple question: has London, Paris or Washington solved road congestion despite having metros or have inhabitants simply bought more cars and motorbikes to create more congestion?

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