Associations doubt contribution of light rail’s northwest line

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Issue 700, Page 3
Word count: 700
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

A number of social services organisations yesterday showed concern about the effectiveness of the light rail system’s northwest line in easing traffic congestion around the Inner Harbour area.

The organisations were invited to attend the Transport Infrastructure Office’s (GIT) first public consultation session at the Macao Museum of Art to express suggestions and opinions about the second phase construction of the new public transportation.

GIT announced three preliminary proposals for the second phase northwest line construction last Friday and public opinions will be collected until July 9.

The three conceptual plans respectively suggest the construction of an “Inner Harbour underground corridor”, a “coastal elevated corridor” and a “seabed corridor” to connect the Border Gate and Barra via Ilha Verde, Fai Chi Kei, Patane and Praca Ponte in Macau’s northwest.

Vice chairman of Sin Meng Charity Association, Wu Weng Shun, said the government should first solve the “fundamental problems”, adding none of the three proposals presented could alleviate traffic jams in internal streets of the old districts.

“How about when tourists arrive in A-Ma Temple and then want to go a bit farther and visit Lilau Square? What signs will be there and whether there will be still full of traffic?,” he said.

Wu pointed out that the inappropriate running schedules of buses were the main cause of traffic problem in Macau.

He also questioned whether the huge investment of the northwest line, which is estimated at 3.5 to 6.5 billion patacas, would create pressure to the public finance “if in the future another financial crisis hits the globe”.

GIT chief Lei Chan Tong responded that the construction of the light rail transit aimed to “share” public buses’ pressure, adding that the launch of the transportation did not mean the traffic would go “smoothly thereafter”.

Lei stressed that each kind of transportation has its own pros and cons, and the best solution is to let buses, taxis, light rail and the future automatic walking systems to complement each other.

“The biggest advantage of the light rail service is high capacity and punctual, but on the other side it can’t go inside narrow streets,” the GIT chief said.

After bus passengers could be diverted to the light rail, Lei said there will be room for the government to further review the operation model of public buses.

“It’s a vast investment, but is necessary to support Macau’s sustainable development and facilitate the public transportation,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Macau Public Utilities Concern Association said that the “underground corridor” proposal would be more appropriate for Macau due to the large existence of narrow streets.

The representative, Mr Cheang, also said that an underground corridor would be the best option in terms of technical difficulties and environmental impact for the construction of sub lines that extend to other areas of the territory.

At the same time, he urged the GIT to consider extend the Northwest line to Avenida de Horta e Costa as it is “one of the busiest roads” in Macau.

Despite ticket prices of the northwest line are not yet set, the GIT chief said that the fares will be “within an affordable range for normal residents” and similar to those of the first phase north-south line.

Council member of the Macau Association of Support for the Disabled, Ho Kuoc Meng, voiced concern about the practicality of barrier-free facilities at various light rail stations.

He said he hoped that GIT could add a “human touch” to the installation of the disabled-friendly facilities in order to assist disabled people to better use them.

Ron Lam from the Macau Federation of Trade Unions also favoured the construction of an “underground corridor” along the Inner Harbour area for the northwest line.

He asked what the estimated operation cost was for the phase two light rail transit as it would be a “long-term burden for the government”.

The GIT chief said the costs varied little between the three proposals, adding it would be 110 million patacas for two light rail compartments or 130 million patacas for four compartments per year.

GIT will hold three more public consultation sessions on Friday, May 19 and May 22 at 3.30 pm at the auditorium of the Macao Museum of Art.

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