Q COSTA RICA NEWS / The plan was great. The government told us, “take the train” as a measure to lessen the road congestion caused by the partial closure of two lanes of the ‘platina’ bridge on the autopista General Cañas.
But, as authorities and passengers quickly learned on Monday, the commuter train (tren urbano in Spanish) operated by the State railway, the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles (Incofer), cannot handle the capacity of passengers taking the train between Alajuela and San Jose.
Long lines at the trains stations, people inside the passenger cars pressed up against each other to maximize the number of people on each run, were common on Monday.
The first day of the train service from the Alajuela station was not exactly what had been expected.
The Minister of Public Works and Transport (MOPT), Carlos Villalta, and the president of the Incofer, Cristian Vargas (a former MOPT official) acknowledged Monday afternoon that the train service had failed to meet the demands and promised to make ‘adjustments’ in the coming days, but the words were short on what those changes would be.
It is important to understand that the Alajuela – San Jose train doesn’t make a direct track between the two cities; the train goes through Heredia, perhaps with the highest high commuter train ridership.
The MOPT minister admitted that the service has limitations. It does not have enough cars and locomotives to meet the demand. In addition to the Alajuela – Heredia – San Jose line, the Incofer must meed the demands of the Cartago – San Jose and the San Jose – Pavas – Belen (Heredia) commuters.
In addition, the almost daily occurrence of accidents involving the train has reduced the number of passenger cars and locomotives in use. Last April was perhaps the single most blow to the Incofer with the front end collision between two trains in Pavas, crippling even more the already struggling railway.
“We have to make changes, but these changes do not happen overnight. We have to monitor the behavior of the passengers better. We cannot be changing schedules that are fixed because there are cross trains to consider,” said Vargas.
One of the options, according to the Incofer chief, is to take trains from the Cartago route, for example, to expand the Alajuela route.
The ‘platina’ reconstruction is only affecting the west side of San Jose, that is in areas like Cartago and San Pedro, the traffic congestion is the ‘normal’.
When things couldn’t get any worse,. We have to keep in mind that in less that two weeks time, on February 6, is the beginning of the 2017 school year. That is to say, the traffic mess drivers live today does not take into account the many people still on vacation, that will soon be returning to the capital city.