Ecuador: The curse of the Quito metro: it’s finally ready to start but has no one to drive it | International


One of the trains made for the Quito metro.FAC

The Quito metro was designed so that Quito residents can get from home to work faster. A 1.5 hour drive from the south to the north of Ecuador’s capital would be reduced to half an hour. From that promise eight years ago and underground transportation still has no start date. The work is 99.32% complete, but the new manager does not dare to set an opening date. It is not yet clear who could operate the trains. He has been in office since October 22, and of course eight people have gone before him, including seven during the last legislature. No one succeeded in getting the city’s biggest construction site started, which cost $ 2.009 million and would set the benchmark for sustainable and efficient transportation across the country.

The 16 trains of the Quito metro are in depots, waiting for the capital to decide on the operating model. The option has evolved from direct municipal management to an alliance with a foreign strategic partner, public or private. Today, new advisors have been hired to assess what will be the ideal formula. In the meantime, the stations will remain closed.

When the project was announced, a 22.6 kilometer metro line with 15 stops was proposed that would cross from south to north a city sandwiched between the Andes mountains, 45 kilometers long and five kilometers wide. “Before, we could have all the political will, but there weren’t the resources,” said in 2013 Fander Falconí, the government’s Planning and Development secretary Rafael Correa, who financed part of the construction. . Now that the investment is made, the political backlash has blocked the start of the country’s first metro line, built by the Spanish company Acciona.

Efraín Bastidas, the current incumbent, takes it almost for granted that if the trains start, they will do so in early 2023. In the middle of this year, there will be municipal elections and, for now, there are only tests without movement. “I don’t like setting dates, because dates have been discussed in the past and it would be irresponsible of me to fall into the same,” he said in an interview with the Digital Newspaper. First fruits.

The metro manager, to whom MRT unsuccessfully asked for an interview, also admitted that they did not have the railway knowledge to drive the trains and that the Catalan advisers who are evaluating the most practical operating model for the capital will take months to come to a conclusion. The current mayor believes that the metro is today a “white elephant” and asked Bastidas to reverse one of the last decisions of his predecessor: to operate under direct municipal management but with international aid. The new administration fears that the same thing will happen to the metro as it does to land transport. Plagued by poor quality user complaints. It has not even been decided whether the tariff should be 45 cents or more, so that it is profitable and at the same time affordable for the citizen.

Édison Yánez was in charge of the project for 18 months, until January of this year. He says he received 80% of the work, left it 99% in progress and that since his departure nothing has changed other than the controversy over the model of operation and driving of trains. A case which, according to him, should already be resolved and inclined towards an alliance with a strategic partner, whether public or private. According to their studies, this option translates into savings of $ 14 million over 10 years by delegating the management of transport to an international company. Yánez assures that the multilateral organizations that financed the project – the World Bank, the Development Bank of Latin America, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Investment Bank – have also advised the alliance, which could put in service the Quito metro for 43 million dollars. dollars.

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“The hard thing is not to implement it; the problem is political, ”diagnoses the former manager. If the municipal authority has reviewed and accepted the studies prepared, it is certain that the metro could start to operate in 2022. But this option, Yánez criticizes, has a political cost because the metro is in competition with transport by bus, which is always present. measured in voice. “We have to change this war for the penny of the drivers, who own every vehicle, for a model of service managed by the city,” he says, because if the metro is not integrated with the bus lines, there is no will not have sufficient passenger demand. .

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