Chinese buses to completely transform transport system

Campaign News | Sunday, 19 February 2006

As economic recovery continues the island will buy 8,000 vehicles from China, says Fidel

BY MARIA JULIA MAYORAL - Granma daily staff writer -

CUBA is negotiating the purchase of approximately 8,000 vehicles from the People’s Republic of China, President Fidel Castro informed after announcing that in upcoming weeks, 30 buses from that Asian nation will go into service to transport passengers between Havana and Pinar del Río.

Fidel made his comments during an official ceremony for the delivery of the new Chinese buses and spared no praise for those vehicles, which he described as excellent due to their fuel efficiency, comfort and quality/price relationship. He also noted the seriousness, rigor, and agility in meeting contracts by the Yutong consortium, the largest bus-maker in China and in the world at this time, which supplied these vehicles and with whom additional contracts are to be signed.

The Cuban president made similar comments regarding the 12 Chinese 2,500-horsepower locomotives that recently arrived in the country. "These are machines with the most modern technology, their cost is lower than that of similar ones manufactured in the United States, and they run two kilometers further than the American ones on the same amount of fuel," he noted.

"These realities help us to appreciate the great symbolism of what China and its companies represent for the development of transportation in Cuba, which is now definitively leaving the Special Period behind," he added.

Fidel remarked on the type of economic relations that the island and the Asian nation are strengthening on the basis of mutual interests. "Those are the growing ties between a giant country like China and a small one like ours, which the yankee empire is trying to destroy."

"The world can observe the differences between that powerful empire bent on crushing our Revolution and bringing us to our knees, and the stance of solidarity and fraternity of a great nation like China, with an ancient culture more than 2,000 years old, a population 125 times larger than ours, and territory that is 80 times that of Cuba’s," he said. "This is a nation that with extraordinary heroism was able to free itself from the yoke that the imperialists attempted to place on it and which today, based on the principles of social justice, has become the main motor force of the global economy in a period of just 20 to 25 years."

The Revolutionary leader explained that the improvement of inter-provincial transport will continue in the eastern provinces of Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Holguín and Las Tunas, and it is being studied whether or not to include Camagüey in this initial stage.

He explained that ticket prices will go up, given that they are now virtually free when compared with the cost of the service; despite the anticipated increase, they will still be between seven and eight times cheaper than the prices charged by private drivers. The state, he added, will subsidize 20% of the cost of travel, and 80% will be shouldered by citizens.

Given the Special Period, state transport has been very depressed and those who exploit the people have taken advantage of that by charging high prices for the use of their private vehicles, he noted. "However, today we are in a situation to change old ideas, achieving a more just distribution and making a greater effort for those who live honorably."

Currently, there are 800 Yutong buses in Cuba, some of which arrived assembled and some of which have been assembled in a plant in Guanajay, in La Habana province. At that facility, conditions are being prepared to increase the number of buses assembled per day from three to six. In addition, a factory is being outfitted in the capital where up to nine buses per day may be assembled, Fidel noted.

The idea is to put almost 600 buses into service for inter-provincial transport in the next few months, and to subsequently reinforce inter-municipal routes, he affirmed.

"There are also offers - and we are studying them - to bring train cars for passengers and for moving fuel, food and construction materials," Fidel said. In addition, more than 1,000 train cars have been repaired in Cuba to date.

About 200 cars will be purchased for fuel, 100 for food and 200 for passenger transport, but the latter will be used only for long-distance travel; that is, for now, they will be used to move citizens between the capital and eastern provinces. For short-distance trips, buses are more economical, he added.

Between new vehicles and the re-outfitting of buses and trucks, the country is to spend $1 billion, without including spending on train locomotives and cars, the Cuban president explained. He reiterated the importance of conservation and the rational use of all fuel and electric energy as the main sources of material and financial resources for the nation.

The president made his remarks during the official ceremony at the Ministry of Transport, which included the presence of Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who was invited by Fidel to participate in this special ceremony to deliver the new Yutong buses.

Others who spoke during the ceremony included Tang Yuxiang, president of Yutong Bus Co.; Hu Quan, vice president of the city of Zhengzhou in Henan province, where one of the company’s factories is located; and Zhao Rongxian, Chinese ambassador to Cuba. They praised their fraternal relations with Cuba and its people, confirmed their interest in continuing to increase trade ties, and emphasized their commitment to contributing decisively to the improvement of Cuba’s transport system. Rafael Hurtado Zamor spoke on behalf of transport sector workers; he is a member of the contingent that, because of its professionalism and discipline, will be in charge of driving the new buses.

Before the event began, Fidel and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Carlos Manuel Pazo, Cuban minister of transport; and members of the Chinese delegation toured the Ministry’s parking lot to get a close-up view of the different types of buses purchased.

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