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wrecks are rare in Cuba; so are on-time trains
Ray Sanchez/Direct from Havana | Direct from Havana
8:13 AM EST, February 10, 2009

HAVANA

Two days after a deadly train collision in central Camaguey province,
most passengers at the Old Havana train terminal seem unfazed.

Cuba's aging railways have suffered from a lack of and
maintenance. A large portion of the train fleet is out of service for
lack of spare parts, trips have become more widely spaced and delays
common. But the state has allotted $500 million to modernize the rail
system, including track upgrades, and new signals and communications
equipment.

"A common complaint is that the trains are too slow," said Ilsa Alfonso,
who was traveling to Las Tunas. "But accidents are rare. They're not the
norm."

In October 2007, authorities the driver of a that collided
with a train in Granma province, killing 29 people and injuring 75
others. The driver allegedly stopped the bus on the tracks as the
locomotive approached, according to the state media.

Saturday, two trains loaded with passengers and headed in opposite
directions slammed into each other, killing three people and injuring
dozens more. The cause remained under investigation, but one local
official said excessive speed by one of the trains may have played a role.

On Monday, Cubans traveling to eastern Holguin province from the
capital's main train terminal lined up for buses instead. Four crowded
Chinese-made buses are making the 12-hour journey across the island
because of work on the busy rail line.

"I don't like the rat-tat-tat of the trains," said Odelmis, 40, waiting
to board a bus with her daughter and her mother. "Sometime always seems
to go wrong on the train. I once spent two days on a train that broke
down. "

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/cuba/sfl-rayblog-0210,0,4634743.column

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