Light rail may operate in typhoon No.8

Thursday, November 5, 2009
Issue 861, Page 3
Word count: 804
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

While the Macau Institution of Engineers (AEM) believed that the light rail transit should be safe to operate under typhoon signal No. 8 as long as the speed can be reduced, the Transport Infrastructure Office (GIT) is not so sure about the idea and said that people are supposed not to stay outdoor during that period.

The GIT yesterday visited the local engineers to introduce to them the final construction plan of the first phase of the light rail transit.

AEM president Leong Man Io told reporters after the presentation he deemed that if the trains could slow down the speed when typhoon signal No. 8 is hoisted, the light rail service should be able to be maintained safely.

“Certainly the GIT will have to also look at the overall design of the transit system and the trains. But we need to know that the elevated tracks won’t be as high as the three Macau-Taipa bridges and will be just around eight metres, or 15 metres at the highest, above the ground,” Mr Leong said.

However, deputy director of the GIT, Ho Cheong Kei, said that it would depend on which model of trains the transit will be using, “as different models set different speed limits on the trains”.

Mr Ho said that generally the light rail system will adopt the same way as other public transportation (buses) – to suspend services a short period after a typhoon signal No. 8 is hoisted.

“Although the light rail will still be able to provide limited services to people during the typhoon season, we don’t encourage people to commute between places anymore at that time,” the GIT officer said.

Yet, he added that a certain period before and after a typhoon signal is hoisted, “certainly the government has to ensure operations of some public transportation and cannot halt the services completely”.

Therefore, if it is necessary to continue the light rail service, Mr Ho said the GIT will first take into consideration the safety issues, such as reducing the speed or the frequency of trains.

In regard to the ticket prices, the AEM president, based on the construction cost of 7.5 billion patacas, estimated that only when the fares were set at eight to nine patacas could the government recover the full investment.

“If the prices are between four and five patacas, the government must have subsidised part of it,” Mr Ho said.

However, he said that there are many factors that could affect the final fares of the light rail.

“If the government is to allow commercial facilities such as shops in some large stations, the revenue generated from them can help fund the operating cost of the light rail and thus offer more affordable fares to the public,” he added.

As for the GIT’s perspective, Mr Ho pointed out that the government did not yet know how much revenue or expenses it will register from the mass transit.

He said that the GIT did not consider setting up commercial facilities in stations for the moment, adding that the government will not look at the balance of payments only from a “business point of view” especially when it comes to large-scale public investment projects.

“Instead, we will look at the other economical benefits in society as a whole. For example, how much time a passenger can save on commuting when travelling on the light rail, how it can help increase his job performance, and how the pressure of the existing traffic network can be eased,” Mr Ho said.

On the other hand, the AEM president told reporters many improvements had been made in the final construction plan.

Mr Leong said the engineers used to worry about the possible impact on the view especially along Sai Van and Nam Van Lakes, as the original plan was to build the transit above the ground.

Yet, it has now changed to build an underwater tunnel in that particular section of the route.

“It’s quite a perfect proposal already,” Mr Leong said.

“The plan will not only resolve the internal traffic problems of Macau, but will also connect with the railway system in the mainland (Guangzhou-Zhuhai Railway), which is able to save a lot of time on travelling and may also allow us to go to many different cities within China without taking a plane,” he added.

As for the environmental issues, Mr Leong also said that a lot of work had been done on minimising noise, air, water as well as underground soil pollution.

“During the construction, the chemicals used to stabilise the soil may penetrate into the underground layers of soil which then cause pollution,” he said.

“We saw strategies have been proposed to preserve the environment, and as such the entire light rail system will also serve as a green belt in the city,” he added.

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