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TRAINS FOR TRANSPORT

6/17/2013
Commuters in the Western Division can now look forward to a new mode of public transportation.

The commuter railroad project to cost $20million will be developed through a proposed investment by the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) to use public service trains on its tramlines.

Minister for Public Utilities (Water and Energy) and Transport Timoci Lesi Natuva said Government is fully supportive of the initiative as it would mean lesser traffic jams on our roads at peak hours.

There will also be easier and faster transportation of cargo and travel because trains will provide another option for the travelling public.

“We could see a public private partnership working to benefit not only our road users but all Fijians,” he said.

“Government is very much part of this project which will see the introduction of trains,” Minister Natuva said.

Minister Natuva said Fijians not accessible to roads but live in the cane belt area will benefit.

This means people between Ra and Sigatoka can travel by road or train between centres.

FSC executive chairman Abdul Khan said they were reviewing the railways and would invest millions over the next few years in the project.

“We only use our railway during the crushing season and the other 6 months it (railway lines) is idle so we have come up with an idea to invest a little more so that we are able to get some returns from our investment,” Mr Khan said.

“At the same time provide an alternative mode of transportation for locals as well as tourists.”

“Talks with stakeholders have reached the stage where we will implement our strategy because most times our railway lines are idle and cane transportation via railway is somewhat decreased.”

The first railway lines were built in 1876 and since then have been used sorely for transportation of cane to the mills.
According to Mr Khan, the train system will begin by 2016.

Over time, the changing dynamics of the sugar industry and the increase in vehicles on Fiji’s roads has pushed the introduction travel of trains.

“We are looking at options on whether the trains will be for produce or people or both so the figure will be different for this capital investment. We expect the returns to be also massive.”

Fiji Sugarcane Growers Council acting chief executive officer Sundresh Chetty said the introduction of trains would certainly boost the transportation sector in the country.

“About 70-80 per cent of cane used to be transported via the trams in the 80s but right now it has moved on to trucks which gives another reason to use the railways for other purposes,” Mr Chetty said.

The idea has already been given the green light from Government.

“We are all for it and it would really boost our transportation sector earnings,” Permanent Secretary for Sugar, Manasa Vaniqi said.

“Villagers and communities in rural areas could use it as an alternative to busses and mini – vans,”

Special Administrators in the western division have thrown their support for the initiative

Lautoka Special Administrator Praveen Bala says the initiative has the backing of his municipality and he looked forward to the introduction of trains in Fiji.

“It is a very good idea and Lautoka is fully backing the introduction of trains,” Mr Bala said.

-ENDS-
 
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