Have you taken the metro yet?

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

No I haven’t. Yet? – perhaps it might happen…

Like most of my friends and acquaintances I have lost count of the time since when the metro line and structures started being laid in Curepipe, but as long as the trains didn’t become operational it seemed that the works were taking awfully long. This feeling was no doubt compounded by the fact that there were traffic diversions that affected not only in-city vehicular movements but also the exit and entry to the city towards Floréal and Port Louis especially at peak hours. It’s not as if the situation has dramatically eased as the trains started running, but there is some relief at least.

The ongoing works brought about disruptive and often annoying changes in the routines of people, in particular the working segment of the population, who had to make major shifts in their daily arrangements – such as, for working parents with young children who had to be left at nursery or school before heading to their own occupations.

Much the same problems were faced when the first metro line works began to connect Rose-Hill/Beau Bassin to Port Louis. They were widely aired across the media practically on a daily basis in the initial stages until only the occasional one, seemingly more irritating at the given time, would be ventilated – since other news headlines took priority. Also, most likely people had gotten used to seeing the workers toiling through day and night, and had adjusted to the changes imposed upon them as they settled into their altered routines.

I myself had to take Vandermesch road on Sundays in those days, and the diversions did get me confused – as much as they did in my own native Curepipe for that matter! But since, this matter has been resolved mostly and we drivers have got used to the new arrangements, while others are in the pipeline.

The extension to Quatre-Bornes caused even more ink to be spilt and the radiowaves to be inundated with news and views about the impact on business for one, with some dire predictions about accidents and deaths that, fortunately, haven’t materialized. However, there is no doubt that there is a serious issue of what happens in case of a medical emergency such as an ambulance ferrying a case to Victoria Hospital and having to go through the only lane running parallel to the metro line?

At some stage such a problem is bound to arise, it being more likely than a collision between a train and a road vehicle, or a pedestrian being hit by the train. This is where the criticism about having an elevated line rather than a street level one seemed to be justified, but we are past that stage now and it would be wise for the authorities to give some thought to this conundrum before a tragic incident happens.

Denizens of Vacoas, both residents and non-residents who ply their trade there,have also had their fair share of troubles to grouse about – in the vicinity of the market place as regards access and parking, as well as the critical thoroughfare leading from there to the Savoy junction and the St Paul Road-Sivananda Road junction when the trains started running a few weeks ago. The logjam at the Savoy junction, both towards and away from it stretched to almost half an hour for the few yards that had to be covered, and the onset of summer heat only compounded the mental heat that was already causing frayed nerves and tempers. The presence of policemen didn’t seem to be of much help according to the accounts available. However, it appears that the situation is now under better control with fine-tuning of the traffic signals and synchronization with the metro timings having probably taken place, and so much the better.

I do not know much about what is happening at Port Louis, but those few bold ones who decided to give it a try all the way from Curepipe have come back raving about the new Victoria terminal, strongly advising me to also go and see for myself. Will I, won’t I… 

Some of the minus points are: overcrowding in the morning that has put some young cadres off for having to practically stand all the way to Port Louis; the rush at Beau Bassin-Barkly with many ticketless travellers jumping in; too many senior citizen free riders at peak hours.

Overall, though, there is general satisfaction on a number of points: the trains are on time; the shortened trip of 45 minutes to Port Louis from Curepipe is a major attraction; not having to drive for those who used to, saving on both time and petrol, and freed from the stress of driving; if one is lucky to find a seat, and there’s enough breathing space, do some reading, check some files. And so far, cleanliness is maintained.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that the introduction of the metro has enhanced the change in landscape and social habits that had already been underway with the spread of malls and mall culture. Mercifully the physical landscaping of that part of Curepipe and Floréal associated with the metro is a most welcome change – for a start to the drab scene that had dominated Jan Palach for decades, and when the ‘grassifying’ of the spaces below the elevated rail lines is complete, no doubt there will be some more pleasantness added.

Unfortunately, the rest of Curepipe has not followed, ugliness reigns in several of the buildings in public view in the centre of town. The town hall has been under renovation forever. And the traffic congestion under normal times makes one dread festive periods. How far the metro network when completed around the country will reduce traffic jams is anyone’s guess. But a pessimistic indication is warranted given that our vehicular fleet expansion continues at visibly increasing pace.

Perhaps I must make that trip to Victoria Mall sometime…

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 13 January 2023

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