Metro Express: An Obvious Misnomer

This is nothing else but an Intra-Urban Tramway. Metro Express would definitely be a misnomer

I have not known any metro which runs on the ground all along from one terminal to another. On the other hand the tramway (tram) does, and mostly side by side with motor vehicles. But the Metro, around the world, runs mostly underground. Hence another name for it, in the UK: the Underground. In Paris, Russia and elsewhere it is only known as the Metro.

Politicians worldwide have the eccentric and egocentric propensity of undoing things their predecessors have done. This is exactly what Donald Trump’s government is doing in the USA, as far as Obamacare and climate change are concerned.

Our previous government was planning to set up the light Monorail, which was supposed to be built above the ground on pillars (pilotis). This has been discarded by the present government. Instead we are going to have the Metro Express.

A few weeks back an apparently widely-travelled Mauritian, speaking to Radio Plus, elaborated on these electric vehicles, namely: the Tram, Light Monorail and the Metro. He pointed that Tramways derive their electricity from overhead electric cables, while the Metro gets its own from the rails. Here is the difference between the Metro and the Tram.

To further support this view I would rather refer the reader to official, worldwide definitions of the relevant electric vehicles:
According to Oxford Advanced Dictionary: ‘Metro – Underground railway system’.

Le Petit Larousse : Metro – ‘Une abréviation du mot métropolitain; chemin de fer souterrain’.

Tram – ‘Chemin de fer urbain établi au moyen de rails, posé sur le profil de la Route’.

Collins Cobuild Dictionary: ‘Metro – Underground railway system in some cities, for example in Paris, Moscow, New York’.

Tram – ‘An electric vehicle for carrying passengers, which travels along rails, laid in the surface of a street in a town or city’.

Monorail – ‘Is a system of transport in which trains travel along a single rail which is usually high above the ground’.

In the early 1980s when the MSM, Labour and PMSD coalition government was in power and Ramduth Jaddoo was Minister of Public Infrastructure, the inception of the LMR was being contemplated for Mass Transport of passengers from Curepipe to Port Louis, at a cost merely Rs 3-4 billions. Most unfortunately, due to several procrastinations the present amount would be around tenfold the initial one.

Dilly-dallying about implementations of several such projects has cost the country more than a hundred billion. What a waste! I, for one, am in favour of the project, though feeling very sad about the wiping out of the Vandermeersch Street jogging track.

Underground tunnels for a Metro Network or similar constructions are dug mostly in countries having a sort of sandy soil like in Europe, India and the Middle East. But doing so in volcanic countries like Réunion, Mauritius or Rodrigues would be totally impracticable. Besides, its cost would be very prohibitive and such a project in Mauritius may last a decade.

Now let us consider the word Express. An Express train such as the Rajdhani from Mumbai to Delhi is one that runs faster than others with a few technical stops. An Express bus is one which moves faster than its counterparts with only a few stops.

In our case, the ME would move slightly faster and at the same time stop at each and every station. Hence this word also is out of context. And yet we Mauritians thump our breasts, claiming to be bilinguals.

With no intention of underrating anyone, it can be inferred that even the blind can tell between a Metro and a Tram. Hence, what the present government is planning is a Tramway system.

Moreover, if we insist on maintaining the appellation ME, we would end up being the laughing stock at the National and International levels. Just as we nearly had a very naïve logo “Mauritius C’est Un Plaisir” in the recent past, and which was luckily not implemented due to the hue and cry it provoked.

It might be that in Australia this mode of transport is called Metro — but in common parlance, this is nothing else but an Intra-Urban Tramway. And ME would definitely be a misnomer.

Dr Balmick Foogooa



* Published in print edition on 11 August 2017

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