By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) in Hong Kong became operational in 1979 and has evolved to have a total of nine lines. The Shanghai Metro was launched in 1995 and was the third urban rapid transit system in mainland China after Beijing and Tianjin. The Japan Railways Group, commonly referred to as “JR”, operates a high quality rail service covering most parts of Japan.
All these examples seem to suggest that having a sophisticated metro transit is a common characteristic among advanced economies or developed countries, as essential as having an (international) airport, a stable and organised government, a comprehensive health care system or other major infrastructure that support people’s quality of life and daily needs.
Apparently one can find an urban railway system in most – if not all – of the highly developed or even developing countries or regions in the world.
I’m sure the Macau Government has acknowledged the fact that a mass transit system can help boost the city’s international status and is one of the many prerequisites for upgrading itself and achieving the goal of becoming a world travel and leisure hub.
Of course, the light rail transit (LRT) has also appeared to be the best and long-term solution for the traffic deadlocks in the SAR, where population and tourists are climbing and existing public transportation has long been facing public criticism.
I believe a lot of people in Macau, and perhaps even tourists who have been to Macau and have experienced the bus and taxi services here or who are planning to visit this place, have high hopes for our light rail transit, which, unfortunately, was originally supposed to have entered its first phase construction in the second half of 2008 and be up and running by the end of 2011.
At least that was what Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si Io told the local media at a press conference held on October 12, 2007.
So here we are already in late March 2011 with the Transportation Infrastructure Office (GIT) having “finally” announced the winning bidder of the public tender to supply the rolling stock and system for the LRT phase one on December 30, 2010, giving the Macau public some “pleasant news” right before the New Year’s Day.
Well, regardless of whether local people like Mitsubishi or not and all those under-the-table rumours/allegations between the Macau Government and the Japanese company, it was a big step forward and has shown to the public that the LRT project is still on the agenda.
Now, GIT says the construction is expected to kick off in the second half of this year and that the transit will start operating in early 2015.
But then, the latest evolvement understood by the Macau Daily Times is that the consortium between Bombardier Transportation and China Road and Bridge Corporation, which was one of the three bidders, has filed a lawsuit on March 2 in Macau against the GIT for refusing to release several documents from the tender process to them.
I don’t have a clue what is going to happen next and I’m not saying that the consortium should not have done this which may cause delays, again, in the LRT construction, especially when it has doubts over the impartiality and fairness in the bidder selection process. But undeniably the lawsuit has now cast uncertainty on the project.
GIT chief Lei Chan Tong did not comment much on the matter even before the lawsuit. Ironically, in his inauguration back in November 2007 he pledged that his role was to “build a clean, efficient, practical and transparent image” for the GIT.