The Metro Express Project was officially launched on Friday 10 March 2017 at the Old Train Station in Caudan, Port Louis, with the unveiling of a Commemorative Plaque by the Prime Minister, Minister of Home Affairs, External Communications and National Development Unit and Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr Pravind Jugnauth.
The unveiling was done in the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Public Utilities, Mr Ivan Collendavelloo; the Minister Mentor, Minister of Defence, Minister for Rodrigues, Sir Anerood Jugnauth; the Minister of Public Infrastructure and Land Transport, Mr Nandcoomar Bodha; the High Commissioner of India to Mauritius, Mr. Abhay Thakur, and other personalities.
In his address, the Prime Minister underlined that the Metro Express is not just another infrastructure investment, but is a game changer in a wider development perspective. He pointed out that the country, as a small island, is far reaching its limits in terms of accommodating new road networks and highlighted the overwhelming pressure on the existing transport system and serious constraints posed by traffic jams on commuters, the environment and the Nation's productivity. "It is estimated that traffic congestion is costing the country Rs 4 billion every year and, that this annual cost is projected to more than double to reach some Rs 10 billion by 2030," he indicated. Consequently, the Government of Mauritius has set up Metro Express Limited, a company, to implement the project.
"With Metro Express, we are indeed bringing about a conspicuous transformation in the way people will commute from one place to another and we are redefining and modernising significantly our public transport system," stated the Prime Minister while detailing the project. The Metro Express Project will have a main line of 26 km in length from Curepipe to Port Louis and comprise 19 stations, including four interchangers, he added. Mr Jugnauth stressed that each station will be a cluster of economic activity which will have significant spill-overs on its surroundings and provide cost opportunities for small and medium enterprises operators.
He further stated that the Metro Express Project is expected to generate net job creation in the transportation sector itself and dismissed any apprehensions about job losses amongst bus employees. He assured that there will be full consultations with stakeholders, particularly bus employees, bus owners and bus companies with a view to coming up with win-win solutions. The Prime Minister emphasised that it is estimated that in its construction phase, the Metro Express Project will create around 7,000 full time equivalent jobs and contribute to Rs 13 billion to National Output. "We are expecting even greater economic and social spin-offs as it will be a safer and environmentally cleaner mode of transportation," said Mr Jugnauth.
The Prime Minister also expressed gratitude to the Government of India for the grant of Rs 9.9 billion as well as for the participation of RITES Limited, a Government of India Enterprise, which will supervise the works for the implementation of the Metro Express Project. The team of Government officials and external experts from the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise was also thanked for having worked hard, very diligently and with a high sense of urgency to give shape to the Metro Express Project.
For his part, the Minister of Public Infrastructure and Land Transport recalled that Mauritius, this year, will be a vaste chantier (vast construction site) with Government investing some Rs 50 billion in a new National Transport Network involving the implementation of the new Road Decongestion Programme. "What we are going to build in the coming years will shape up Mauritius for the third Millennium," Mr Bodha pointed out.
Outlining the implementation of the National Transport Network Project, with the Metro Express as one of its major components, and together with the implementation of the recommendations of the ongoing Public transport study, Mr Bodha underlined that the public transport system will undergo a major transformation, involving inter alia reengineering of bus routes and schedules. "This will help to reduce car ridership and also increase safety on our roads", he said.
Underscoring the tremendous impact the project will have on the daily lives of Mauritians, Mr Bodha stated that Government will do the utmost best to mitigate the adverse effect, and made an appeal to the general public for their cooperation and collaboration.
The extraordinary relationship between Mauritius and India was the main focus of the speech of the High Commissioner of India to Mauritius. "India's steadfast determination to stand by Mauritius is matched by the trust and confidence Mauritius places in India," he said. Talking about the interests of both India and Mauritius which often converge and even overlap, Mr Thakur stated that the launch of the Metro Express Project, the flagship of India's special economic package to support national priority projects of Mauritius, is a symbol of the shared commitment to deliver on matters of priority for both Nations.