ACIM as a consumer organisation is fully supportive of any development which will be beneficial to all inhabitants. Conversely we will continue to voice our concerns when we feel that any decision proposed by the authorities does the opposite: a case in point is the project of the ‘Metro Leger’.
ACIM has no doubt that it will have significant implications for the lives of all of us yet there has never been a meaningful and informative debate for the public at large. Consequently we wish to express our disquiet through the good services of the media in the hope that it will trigger a national debate.
We would like to be enlightened on the following points:
* Have options for traffic decongestion such as bus way, decentralisation or construction of satellite city been found out to be scientifically untenable?
* What type of railway system is going to be used: Light, or Heavy or Monorail? Each has different cost bearings and seating discomfort. ACIM has for the sake of argument chosen the LRT. But different options will give different costs and impacts.
* Around the world, such projects have had widespread consultations, a sine qua none requirement. This has not taken place in Mauritius.
* The conditions here are hardly conducive for the success of such a scheme. Research has shown that the corridor for the metro needs a population of two million for the project to be viable, or at least 500,000 with per capita income of 15,000 US $. But we have an ageing population which will remain marginally unchanged until 2050. Our corridor therefore hardly qualifies for a metro. Would that mean that there will be migration? Would ensuing infrastructural needs and societal impacts been comprehensively thought through?
* The system is cost effective when the stations are within walking distance for the majority of users from their homes to their places of work. In Mauritius the users will have to travel to the stations which means additional expenses for them. Will the employers be prepared to pay these additional travelling expenses?
* What means will be used to power the LRT system? Will it be diesel or will it be electricity powered by coal? Both will add on to the pollution.
* Because of the topography (of the terrain and narrow road widths) from Curepipe to Port-Louis, the railway system will have to be positioned on pillars; the rest of the journey will be on roads parallel to the existing ones. The question is: what fraction of the system’s journey will be on pillars? When it is run on roads, will it not cause additional traffic congestion?
* The path proposed for the LRT is likely to involve the destruction of local amenities such as Arab Town, public walkways and gardens. Additionally we are concerned about the negative impact on the environment and to city dwellers immediately next to the line.
* If any existing major roads are going to make way for the LRT, what will be the impact on already congested roads, and to other vehicular traffic?
* An Environmental Impact Assessment or a Strategic Environmental Assessment would indicate the likely environmental issues to emerge. It has not been done up till now.
* We know already that the system will be slow at peak times and even slower than other traffic during off-peak hours as proved in other countries such as (United States, Switzerland, etc). Consequently during off-peak hours, the public will revert back to buses, cars and other means of transport, making the LRT even less cost effective. Or will certain routes be cancelled as has been done in other countries?
* ACIM projects that the LRT fares between Curepipe and Port Louis will in all likelihood be at least 5 times more expensive than the normal bus fare for it to be cost-effective. Additionally as the concessions for the elderly and students will be equally applied on the LRT, this would mean that the fares would have to be heavily subsidized. Inevitably it would mean either an increase in direct or indirect taxes such as VAT or a reduction in welfare benefits. The tax burden will have to borne by all inhabitants including those of rural areas and other towns not included in the proposed LRT route.
* The cost of implementing the LRT is already likely to be prohibitive. The public needs to be enlightened about the inevitable ensuing costs once the system is in place
* L’ACIM would like to know if a reference class forecasting has been carried out. Research suggests that for projects such as LRT, a reference class forecasting would accurately indicate project cost overruns.
There are so many questions and queries that remain to be answered before such an intricate system as the LRT can come to fruition.
* Published in print edition on 28 November 2014