Real Estate - Property Matters by Afra Raymond
PROPERTY MATTERS - Articles written by Afra Raymond
Raymond & Pierre - click for website

Back Index Next

Planning for the New transportation network

Published Thursday 6th November, 2008

Taking a long-term view of the government’s transportation proposals, it is clear that we need to carefully plan these. The new network must be economic, effective and give our country a higher level of transportation facilities.

What should be the planning imperatives of the new network? How will the various parts of the new system be integrated for ease of use and flexibility for the travelling public?

This is a major national investment and therefore the answers to those questions will be of concern to all. That would even include those who do not use the new systems, since we will all be paying for them.

The main points would be:

1. The P3 Model for rapid rail

We have been told that rapid rail is the most expensive single project ever undertaken in this country. We are also told that it is a feasible project and it has now been announced that the contract was signed on April 11, to build the new system.

That system is now being designed and built for start of service in the next five years. The Nidco advertisements state that the basis of the contract is “…a design-build-operate-maintain contract.”

We do not have the details, but it seems that the government is to pay the contractors for the project upon its completion as part of this public/private partnership.

There are other approaches within the P3 model which can be used to partner with the private sector to provide public facilities. One of those models, used when the facility is one for which the public can and will pay, is that of granting a concession.

Under that type of arrangement, the private sector partner would design the system in collaboration with the government and pay for the lands to be used by the trains and its stations. The private sector partner borrows the money to build the system, which they then operate under a concession from the State, using only the fares paid by passengers to recover their investment.

The advantages of this arrangement are several since the onus would be on the private sector partner to be economic in the design, construction and operation of the system and, of course, to set fares which would be competitive and allow for proper maintenance of the equipment.

Is the contract signed by Nidco one which grants a concession? If not, why not? Are we contemplating an arrangement within which our private sector partner has no real, financial incentive to offer a first-rate and well-maintained option to the travelling public?

“If the Rapid Rail is indeed feasible, why did we not grant the private partners a concession?”

2. The rapid rail stations

The latest information we have on the rapid rail stations is set out in the diagram. It is unclear whether the location of the stations is part of the design process taking place at the moment. It seems, when one considers the numbers of commuters, that it is necessary to have stations at UWI and Wallerfield, which is the site of the new UTT campus.

3. The maxi-taxi drivers

One can only wonder what these important stakeholders think of all this. We can be sure that their place in the transportation network will shift fundamentally when these new systems come into operation. It is also certain that the public will still have to rely on them for transport in some important respects.

The question of how the maxi and taxi drivers fit into the new network is a critical one which can only be resolved with their willing participation.

It is clear that there is much planning to be done if we are to make sense of all this and, once again, one is awaiting the position of the Ministry of Planning, Housing and the Environment.

Where will the water taxis stop?

Phase 1 of this new system is due to start in December 2008, with service between Port-of-Spain and San Fernando. According to the Minister of Finance, in the 2009 Budget speech: “The physical infrastructure for the temporary onshore and offshore terminal facilities at San Fernando, including car parking, passenger waiting area and berthing facilities is virtually complete.

“Phase 2 of this service will involve an expansion of the service to docking areas in Clifton Hill in Point Fortin, Waterloo/Orange Valley in Chaguanas, Invaders Bay, Point Cumana and Chaguaramas in the Western Peninsula.”

The new hubs

A critical aspect of the new network is the way in which the various parts of the system will operate together. The most careful consideration would be needed here to ensure that we make best use of our limited land. We need to plan so that we do not unintentionally add to the levels of congestion and uncertainty which beset us today.

That planning must involve real consultation with the stakeholders. These would include the travelling public, workers in the transportation system, employers and, of course, maxi and taxi drivers.

Some extracts from the 2009 budget speech will illustrate some further issues:

“The PTSC will also establish park and ride facilities in Arima, San Fernando, Rio Claro and Point Fortin to encourage more car owners to use public transport.”

That is a goal we support entirely but to what extent are those PTSC park and ride facilities to be integrated with the rapid rail and coastal water taxi systems? For example, are we considering an Arima transport hub which combines park and ride, maxis, taxis and rapid rail? In the case of San Fernando, are we designing a hub which integrates those services listed for the Arima hub together with the coastal water taxi?

“In addition, the PTSC compound at South Quay in Port-of-Spain will be totally reconstructed to provide a more modern and efficient environment for the travelling public.”

Again, the same issue as per San Fernando, made more pointed by the proximity of the Tobago Ferry Terminal and the main east-west artery of Wrightson Road.

According to the Nidco advertisements, all of this is taking place “…As part of a holistic plan to ease traffic congestion and create a more modern, efficient transportation network.”

Just two examples of the questions will suffice.

Is the Invaders Bay water taxi station to be integrated with the rapid rail’s stadium station?

The Point Cumana water taxi station is quite close to the Rapid Rail’s Westmall station, can these not be integrated?

Does Nidco’s “holistic plan” include PTSC?

 

Afra Raymond is a chartered surveyor and a director of Raymond & Pierre Ltd. Feedback can be sent to afra@raymondandpierre.com.

Afra Raymond - Property Matters

A critical aspect of the new network is the way in which the various parts of the system will operate together. The most careful consideration would be needed here to ensure that we make best use of our limited land. We need to plan so that we do not unintentionally add to the levels of congestion and uncertainty which beset us today.

That planning must involve real consultation with the stakeholders. These would include the travelling public, workers in the transportation system, employers and, of course, maxi and taxi drivers.