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Saturday 20 January 2018

Rapid rail battle continues

WITH nothing substantial to show, except for site visits by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA); persons doing field surveys and a letter and questionnaire from the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (NIDCO), to possible affected persons, reports indicate that the Rapid Rail Project has already cost this country’s taxpayers more than $500 million in consultancy fees.

On April 11 2008, the TriniTrain consortium of Alstom Transport SA, Alstom TT Ltd., Bouygues Construction and RATP Developpement (sic) announced it had been selected by the government to plan and build two new passenger railways lines in Trinidad.

Seventeen days later on April 28, Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert proclaimed that construction of the Trinidad Rapid Rail would begin in mid 2010, with the first train rolling out of Port of Spain about three years later, after expenditure of some $15 billion, provided of course, there are not any cost overruns.

A letter dated September 30, 2009, on a NIDCO letterhead and signed by Sean McDonnell the TRRP’s Project Director and headed “Request for Information Regarding land Ownership”, sought permission for Right Of Way Services Ltd., (ROW), a subcontractor of TriniTrain, to gather information relative to land ownership.

But the uncertainty and the secrecy which surrounds the project is seriously impacting on persons who might be affected by the project and infuriation and anger are mounting against the planned billion dollar Rapid Rail Project, which has resulted in walkabout and protest meetings.

Residents, including farmers in the Esmeralda/Welcome/Ravine Sable/Ragoonan Road districts are dead set against the project because according to preliminary plans laid out by the Ministry of Works and Transport, the railway and two accompanying parallel highways would pass smack through the middle of these villages.

To fight what villagers say is a just cause, they have formed themselves into an organisation called “The Movement to Stop the Rapid Rail” and are now aggressively urging persons who might be similarly affected along the planned routes, to join them in this move to halt the project.

Their main objective, according to the spokesman, is “not to postpone or delay the project, but to stop it outright.”

Using the plan as a guide, a spokesman said preliminary estimates revealed the project would see the demolition of more than 1000 homes in their villages, disrupting the lives and livelihoods of close to 5000 persons. Additionally the project will oversee the destruction of close to three dozen large, productive farms and more than 50 smaller ones, all which substantially contribute to food production for the nation.

They also proffer the argument that the rail would also destroy the area’s vast water table which has been estimated to cover almost 1000 acres and which has assisted in serving the farmers’ irrigation needs for decades.


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Jugmohan, 62, has been attending her trial on a stretcher and she is now unable