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Cuenca tram has few spare parts left after two years, with brake systems needing immediate attention

Published on January 02, 2023

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The first batch of spare parts for the main tram systems is running out. The Municipality of Cuenca has been trying to buy a new lot for a year.

After two years of operation, there is a shortage of spare parts for the Cuenca tramway, leading to a lack of maintenance services. Obtaining more parts had been easier said than done.

Since the beginning of 2022, the Municipality has been trying to acquire a new batch of spare parts but has not yet been able to complete the purchase.

In March there was a first request for the purchase of spare parts for the maintenance of two systems: the train system and the ground power system (APS), which allows the tram to operate in the Historic Center, with electricity and without overhead lines.

The spare parts availability report in the warehouse, found on the Public Procurement Portal, shows that 60 of the 78 items needed are at zero inventory. And the others have few units in stock.

There are, for example, parts of the bodywork, such as windows and windshields; of the doors, such as push buttons; or the wheel system, such as washers and bolts. But other parts are sparse.

The only supplier of the needed parts is the French company Alstom, which manufactured and implemented the Cuenca tram systems.

The acquisition is important because, according to a needs report, most of the tram cars have already traveled more than 120,000 kilometers and in these two years and “various systems have presented failures, which has made it necessary to use the initial stock of spare parts.”

One of the failures occurred in the power supply boxes of the APS system, which were blocked. The Municipality of Cuenca had to send those parts to France for Alstom to repair them. Now, the company must send them back to Ecuador.

The needs report details that the acquisition of spare parts for the preventive and corrective maintenance of the systems “is important and necessary to comply with the planned maintenance plan.”

Also, to “guarantee the reliability and availability of the fleet at the service of the city.”

The Municipality of Cuenca began a process to purchase the spare parts in April but could not finish it—according to the Public Procurement Portal—because it had a legal dispute with the French company Alstom.

Jorge Moscoso, Director of the Tram Execution Unit, explained that, despite the existence of resources for the acquisition, the conflict with Alstom stopped the process. But he insists that the situation is being resolved.

However, though the acquisition of spare parts is budgeted at $2.5 million plus VAT, the purchase has not yet been awarded; it is in the process of verifying that there is no national production of the items to be purchased, which is a requirement of the Public Procurement Law.

Moscoso says that, despite the lack of spare parts, the system has operated normally. The tram has not had mechanical damage, all have been external problems, such as traffic accidents.

In 2022 alone there have been at least nine collisions with the tram, all caused by drivers of private vehicles.

In those cases, the technical personnel of the mobility system have repaired the damaged parts.

Equipment for the brake system

Perhaps most importantly, after two years of operation, the tram needs spare parts and equipment for the brake system.

According to a technical report, the Executing Unit does not have the necessary equipment to carry out the decontamination of the hydraulic braking purging and oil change system, which must be completed upon reaching 120,000 kilometers.

The other activities of the preventive maintenance of the brake system have been fulfilled, according to this report.

For its part, the Project Executing Unit has already begun the purchase of equipment to meet this need. The process was awarded for $506,404 to the Chilean company Fayveley.

There are other processes that the Municipality of Cuenca must also comply with to guarantee the proper functioning of the tram. Between October and December of this year, it will require:

  • Tramway electronic equipment card repair service.
  • Acquisition of spare parts for railway signaling.
  • Preventive maintenance service for fiber optic links.
  • Acquisition of synthetic hydraulic oil for preventive and corrective maintenance of the brake system.

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