The historic centre of Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca, Ecuador, is a remarkable example of a planned inland Spanish town and of Renaissance urban planning in the Americas. Founded in 1577, it has maintained its original orthogonal plan for more than four centuries. Cuenca was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

Alice Brasse, Out-Of-Gauge Transport Lead Buyer & Coordinator for Alstom Transport, explains that Cuenca Municipality opted to install Alstom’s “Citadis” cable-free model tramways in the city because they offered an environmentally sound solution that would preserve the architectural heritage of Cuenca.

“Citadis trams will be installed along two kilometres of track in the city’s historic centre, using Alstom’s APS, a ground power supply technology whereby the tramway is powered by a third rail positioned centrally between the running lines,” she says.

Cuenca’s entire tramway system, which spans 10 kilometres and 27 stations, will have the capacity to carry up to 120,000 people a day.

“Cuenca will be the first city in the Americas to use this catenary-free tramway solution,” says Brasse. “Furthermore, the city is located in the Cordillera of the Andes, 2,500 metres above sea level, making this the highest tramway in the world.”

Getting the trams to Cuenca posed a number of challenges. Firstly, the project is time sensitive: all the trams have to be delivered on schedule by December 2015. Then there are geographical issues: to reach Cuenca, the trams are first shipped from Europe to Guayaquil and then transported by road across the El Cajas National Park at an altitude of 4,000 metres on treacherous, foggy roads.

“Shipping trams is far from straightforward,” says Elisabeth Nicolas from the Project Sales Department at SDV Projets Industriels Paris. “The trams cannot be lifted. Instead, they have to be kept horizontal at all times. This means that all transfers have to be done by rail, using specialised equipment for both road transport and sea freight.”

SDV is responsible for securing the logistics suppliers for both the road transport from the factory in La Rochelle, France, to Zeebrugge and the ocean transport from Zeebrugge to Ecuador. Nicolas admits that the choice of partners depended on their ability to supply the equipment and expertise required by Alstom.

Patrick Mead from WWL France confirms that WWL has special equipment to handle rail shipments of this kind.

“We have designed rolltrailers equipped with rails and we also created a special tool – like a bridge – to link the rails on the truck with the rails on the rolltrailer, thereby ensuring that the trams are handled safely at all times,” he says. “Our expert cargo handlers in Zeebrugge are another important piece of the puzzle, as they have extensive experience of dealing with breakbulk shipments of this kind.”

This is not Alstom’s first time working with WWL. The two have partnered on several occasions in the past – transporting rail and metro shipments to Australia and Peru, for example – and Brasse says she has confidence in WWL’s RoRo solution.

“RoRo has a major advantage in that it allows operations to be handled smoothly, with no stress,” she says. “Vessel schedules and transit time are respected, and the WWL team handles our material with care. WWL also provides good equipment – it has plenty of railed rolltrailers and they’re very clean. And it goes without saying that our decision was influenced by economical attractiveness of the RoRo solution on this trade.”

WWL, SDV and Alstom all agree that communication is key when dealing with complex projects of this kind.

“We work in close partnership, with daily communication to follow up on production planning and the ongoing shipments, in order to be as proactive as possible,” says Brasse.

“Close cooperation and good communication are key success factors,” says Nicolas. “Informing, exchanging, advising and working together are crucial at all times.”


About the shipment
In May, the first shipment of Alstom Citadis model tramways was transported from Zeebrugge to Port of Guayaquil, Ecuador, bound for Cuenca. Subsequent shipments will carry on through December 2015. Each of the 14 tram units measures nearly 33 metres, but they werre delivered to Zeebrugge in two sections of 18.6 metres and 14.7 metres, to facilitate transport. WWL uses a specially designed bridge to allow for horizontal transfer from the railed semi-trailer, in order to comply with Alstom’s no-lift operation requirement.

About the customer

Alstom Transport develops and markets the most complete range of systems, equipment and services in the railway sector. Alstom Transport manages entire transport systems, including trains, signalling, maintenance, modernisation and infrastructure, and offers integrated solutions. Alstom Transport is present in over 60 countries and employs around 28,000 people.