After years of waiting, Costa Ricans finally have a new train in service. The Costa Rican President, Oscar Arias, drove the train on its first time on the railroad tracks, which had been set more than 100 years ago, and had been out of use for decades. The train goes from Downtown San Jose to the neighboring city of Heredia, where many of those who work in the Capital city live.
The following video was uploaded on YouTube by mavirutube and shows President Oscar Arias addressing the audience at the train's maiden voyage and inauguration, about the importance this new service will have for commuters and all citizens in general. The excitement at the new trains is visible through the hundreds of people lining the train tracks waiting for the train, waving flags and hands as it passed.
On the online forum 89decibeles, Yogi posted on the eve of the inauguration:
Pues bueno, como buen ciudadano herediano que soy estoy feliz de que mañana comienze a funcionar el tren. Porque? Porque simple y sencillamente el servicio de autobuses de heredia San Jose es una mierda.
Yogi also mentions that although the service is set to run only during rush hour, he hopes the service will extend throughout the day, although he seems it is unlikely, since the same companies that run the inefficient bus services are complaining that the train would take away their income, specially because the train ticket fixed price was set out to be lower than the bus fare.
Inclusive el pasaje del Tren inicialmente iba a estar como en 300 colones, pero debido a la queja que interpusieron las compañias autobuseras lo subieron a 350(precio fijo). Lo sacaron con base al promedio de las 4 tarifas de los buses que dan este servicio Heredia- San José.
Aducieron que “era competencia desleal” ya que el pasaje del tren estaba muy barato y por lo tanto les afectaría demasiado en cuanto a los pasajeros.
They claimed it was “disloyal competition” since the train fare was too cheap and it would affect them too much regarding passenger numbers.
Marcos… on his blog Some Opinions and Some Songs, had something to say about the position these bus companies have taken:
Lo primero, una de las primeras reacciones que escuche sobre el tren fue a algunos autobuseros decir que el costo del pasaje debía ser más caro porque si no demasiada gente dejaría de usar buses. Déjenme decirles a todos esos autobuseros, que según entiendo, esa es una de las intenciones, no vas a hacer una inversión millonaria en un tren para que la gente siga usando buses, no para nada, ni que fuéramos idiotas. El chiste es de hecho, que se usen menos buses y vehículos particulares para ver si se logra sacar algo del tránsito que hay en la ruta San José – Heredia y si podemos empezar a avanzar con una rapidez mayor que 6km/h, porque ni por nada en el mundo se va a hacer un tren que no lleve gente sólo porque se ve bonito o porque que dicha tenemos tren.
This next video by lucifer488 shows one of the cultural acts presented to welcome the train upon its arrival into Heredia. The combination of band music with the giant dolls (giganta) is called a cimarrona, and is quite popular during popular festivities. Can you spot the giganta made to look like President Arias?
Not everyone is happy with the train, ziesing in Foro of Costa Rica has several complaints:
La cola que hay que hacer para lograr viajar es interminable tanto que despues de estar en la estacion por mas de una hora sin siquiera poder comprar el tikete es mas facil para cualquiera buscar la parada de bus mas cercana.
Es como una empresa de buses con 2 autobuses pero en rieles, si pense en algun momento que podia llegar mas rapido al no toparme con las presas la ilusion cayo al suelo al ver que la presa de gente en las estaciones atrasa el doble que las de la pista y me termine de desilusionar cuando me di cuenta que el bendito tren cuando da paso se queda pegado tanto como cualquier carro o autobus.
It is like a bus company with only two buses that run on tracks, if I ever thought for a moment that I would be able to get there faster by not getting stuck in traffic jams, the illusion crashed after seeing the human traffic jam in the stations, which makes taking the train twice as long as getting stuck in the highway, and my dissappointment was complete when I realized that when the train gives right of way to cars, it gets stuck just as any other car or bus.
And he isn't the only one. Other users complain about how the train stations are located in solitary and dark areas, making passangers likely to get mugged, and how drivers don't even have enough visibility to be able to know when the train is coming, and there are no gates or light signals installed.
Because the train tracks had been abandoned for so much time, people have stopped paying attention to the Train Crossing signs, and already there have been colissions between the train and cars, although with no casualties. Other concerns that have been voiced have to do with insurance and wether passengers will be covered when riding: back in 1926, the Heredia-San José train saw one of the worst train accidents in Costa Rica's history when the a packed train plummetted from the bridge over the Virilla River and more than 300 people died.
In the next video by manuels89, you can see the train arriving at the Heredia station, and an example of how people are not used to being around trains: there is a worker with a bullhorn warning passengers waiting to board to stay out of the tracks and he even has to pull back someone who is standing right in the way of the train.
Crtrenes, a blog about trains and railroads is already posting information on the possibility to have trains to other neighboring cities close to San Jose such as Cartago and Alajuela. Crtrenes also took the picture that graces this post, of the inaugural run. You can see more images and read their report here.
So great to see the comeback of trains in Costa Rica. When the only complaint is that lines are too long because they’re so popular, that’s a good sign. Miquel recently noted that there have been similar attempts in Ghana, but nothing that has found success yet.