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Friday, 14 September 2012 13:45

Light Rail Transit back on track

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The need for a Mass Rapid Transit transport system was long overdue as the country took giant strides in its economic and infrastructural development in the past two decades.
The authorities, following their failure to contain our ever increasing road traffic and after much dilly-dallying for more than 20 years on the choice of a rapid public transport system, have finally decided to adopt  the LRT, a modern rail transport system, based on the Singaporean model.

An agreement has been signed between the Government and the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE), on behalf of the Government of Singapore, on 7 September, thus  kick-starting the LRT project in Mauritius. The agreement was signed by Nagen Kumar Balah, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and Alvin Lim, Director of the SCE in presence of Minister Anil Bachoo and the director of the project, Siva Pather and Dr K. Reesaul, Head of the Mass Transit Unit. Before the signing ceremony, Minister Bachoo stated that ‘In spite of its lateness the LRT project is put on track with the help of the Singapore government.”

In fact, on 4 June 2012, Anil Bachoo, Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Public Infrastructure, National Development Unit, Land Transport and Shipping told the National Assembly of the development reached in the implementation of a Light Rail Transit project in Mauritius. He recalled that the project of having a Light Rail mass transit system of transport in Mauritius dates back to as early as the 1990s.

“The findings of all the reports have been pointing towards the imperative need to have a Mass Rapid Transit in Mauritius to effectively address the prevailing and emerging public transport problems, a sustained socio-economic development and to ensure enhanced mobility of goods as well as people in the country. This MRT system will not only address the public transport problem but also contribute towards mitigating the extent of our road congestion difficulties.”

“While focusing on a long-term solution, that is a fifty-year horizon, the LRT has emerged as being the preferred option. In the new Government Programme 2012-2015, Government has reiterated that an infrastructure project with significant potential for people and business is the creation of a major nationwide mass transit system.  Such a project will develop to eventually connect the whole island. With the LRT option in perspective, Government explored different avenues for the purposes of developing and implementing an LRT project in Mauritius.”

During his official visit to Singapore in September 2010, the Prime Minister discussed the Mass Rapid Transit system as a potential solution to address the issue of traffic congestion which has become a serious impediment to development in Mauritius. The Singaporean expertise in the LRT field was assessed ‘de visu’ by Dr Navin Ramgoolam and it was recognised as the most credible and convenient system for Mauritius. ‘Government, therefore, decided to draw from the expertise and development experience of Singapore under an existing Framework Agreement for cooperation between the two countries, Bachoo said.

Subsequently, a Government-to- Government Memorandum of Understanding has been established between the Government of the Republic of Mauritius and the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) to provide services for the implementation of different projects to be identified by both parties.

It is to be pointed out that the SCE is an Agency formed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore to respond effectively to foreign requests and to tap on Singapore’s development experience.

In pursuance of the proposal to tap the Singaporean expertise and on the basis of interactive consultations between the Singaporean side and the Mauritian one, the requirements of Mauritius were spelt out and after these were assessed by SCE, the latter submitted in September 2011 a proposal to deliver the following outputs over a period of 13 months: determination of a feasible alignment for the whole LRT corridor running between Curepipe and Port Louis-recommendation of a phased implementation plan for the LRT along selected corridor up to Port Louis; financial and economic analysis covering the whole alignment corridor between Curepipe and Port Louis; development of Concept and Preliminary Design sufficient to attract market interest in the project from suitably qualified delivery entities and to invite priced tenders from those entities; and high level consideration of potential future Northbound and Southbound extensions to the Curepipe to Port Louis corridor to provide input to land planning and land acquisition issues.

Notwithstanding the fact that the initiative is being driven within a Government to Government configuration, Government was determined to ensure that any process being resorted to would be fair, transparent and accountable.  To achieve this end, in December 2011 the Public Procurement Act was amended to provide for procurement undertaken pursuant to an agreement or arrangement between Mauritius and a foreign state which allows Mauritius to benefit from the expertise and development experience of that foreign state in a particular field.  One of the requirements of the procedure clearly states that a Due Diligence be carried out to ascertain that the procurement under the Government-to-Government agreement constitutes value for money.

Government has on 27 April 2012 agreed to the setting up of a Due Diligence Committee, under the chairmanship of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and comprising representatives of the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney General’s Office among others. Government  also enlisted the services of a high calibre Mass Transit expert from India(Prof. M. Srivastava), under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Agreement to ascertain or otherwise the correctness of the exercise, and validate the methodology and findings of the Due Diligence Committee.

The findings of the Due Diligence Committee have thus confirmed that the value for money requirement is met, and subsequently a contractual agreement was concluded with SCE for the consultancy services on Friday, 7 September 2012, in the office of the Minister.

Now it is on the strength of the deliverables that are expected from the execution of this contract by SCE, that information, such as updated estimated cost of the LRT, the economic analysis and financial structuring, the fare structure, the technology options, the alignment options, and the overall socio-economic impact of the project will become known.  

This exercise will allow for the appropriate bidding documents to be produced.
Given the importance and sensitivity of such a project, since the very inception, a mechanism has been set up by way of a Steering Committee to move the process forward.  The Steering Committee, under the chairmanship of the Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service in the Prime Minister’s office, has met on fifteen occasions, the first one being on
7 October 2010 and the last one on 31 May 2012.’

The minister said on the occasion of the signing of the agreement that ‘SCE will have to deliver its services within 13 months as at date and to recommend the best alignment option. The Curepipe-Port-Louis corridor tentatively covers a length of 28 kilometres and the feasible alignment study will cost Rs 180 million.’ The whole Curepipe-Port Louis LRT project will cost around Rs 25 billion.



Indradev Curpen

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