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Mediterranean Railway Corridor has more “allies” in Europe than in Spain

Catalan Minister Josep Rull calls for "excellent rail infrastructure" to boost the productivity of the Mediterranean ports

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01 June 2017 05:16 PM

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ACN

Barcelona.- The so-called Mediterranean Railway Corridor, a long-awaited infrastructure which is set to connect the ports along the Mediterranean coast and through Europe, continues to be one of the Catalan Government priorities for Spanish Government investment. “It is a clear demand,” said Catalan Minister for Territory and Sustainability, Josep Rull, and called for matching the “fantastic ports connection” with “equally excellent rail infrastructure” in order to “boost the productivity of the sector”. Rull admitted he was surprised that the Mediterranean ports’ demand to build the Corridor “has more allies in northern ports of Europe” than “within the Spanish State”. Rull made these statements during the opening of the European Sea Ports Organization (ESPO) Annual Conference, which took place this Thursday in Barcelona.

“Our priority is to see the Corridor completed,” insisted Rull during the conference, in the presence of Port de Barcelona’s President, Sixte Cambra, the representative of Spanish Ports, José Llorca, and Deputy Director General of DG MOVE of the European Commission, Matthew BALDWIN. In an interview with CNA, Rull emphasized the acceptance the Corridor enjoys, which is usually broader outside of Spain than within the country. In fact, he considered it a “paradox” that ports which compete directly with Barcelona, such as those located in the north of Europe, take a much stronger stance in favor of the Mediterranean Corridor than the Spanish Government. “Our competitors have a better understanding of the situation than those who are supposed to protect us,” Rull said.

However, despite being essential not only for the Spanish economy but for all of Europe, its construction has been repeatedly delayed. In addition, the delays in the construction of the Corridor are affecting private investment; pending business investments are worth €300 million, €20 million of which corresponds to an investment from the German multinational Basf, which announced it will expand one of its plants in Tarragona.

“The Spanish government is highly committed to developing the transportation system, comprising the core European network,” said Llorca. Morevoer, he said that investing in the Mediterranean Railway Corridor was “particularly” important and considered it an “essential endeavor” in order to “enhance the competitiveness of Southern Europe”. 

  • “Our competitors have a better understanding of the situation than those who are supposed to protect us” 

    Josep Rull Catalan Minister for Territory and Sustainability

All of the speakers at the opening session remarked on the importance of Barcelona’s port not only for the Mediterranean coast but for the whole of the European network. Indeed, it is the top-ranked port in Spain in generating resources and the third in traffic but it is has particularly outstanding numbers with respect to cruiseships; it is Europe’s first and the world’s fourth ranked port in cruise passengers.

A common demand from the Mediterranean ports

The ESPO Annual Conference opened one day after Catalan Secretary for Infrastructures and Mobility, Ricard Font, urged the Corridor’s coordinator, Juan Barios, “to make concrete commitments” on the project’s implementation. He said so before taking part in a meeting in Valencia, one of the cities which is also affected by the infrastructure delay.

Indeed, the consensus among the regional governments is one of the characteristics of demand for the Mediterranean Railway Corridor. At this time last year, Puigdemont celebrated the consensus that the construction of this infrastructure has among the members of the Strategic Board for the Mediterranean Railway Corridor and also among the regional governments involved in its construction, such as those of Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Murcia, the territories through which the Corridor is set to pass. He urged the Spanish government “to listen” to their demands and also to Europe’s warnings and to promote the Corridor. “We are in overtime and this European warning confirms it,” he said.

Sustainable ports to fight climate change

The fight against global warming, climate change, and the need to progressively become a low-carbon or even zero-carbon port are some of the topics which will be tackled during the two-day conference in Barcelona. “The progress we are making towards a low carbon, low energy economy seems to be genuine,” said Deputy Director General of DG MOVE, European Commission, Matthew Baldwin, addressing the audience which was composed of different high-level experts and inspiring speakers who will set the scene for lively debates with different port authorities and EU policymakers. According to Baldwin, the port’s commitment to tackle climate change “is not just because of the political pressure coming from governments and from the public but also because of the potential for process reengineering and for cost savings” that it entails.  

In this vein, Rull praised the Catalan Government’s “leading role” fighting climate change. A task which is carried out “every day with the application of our emission reduction policy, public commitment and public awareness” but also “with a complete and ambitious law”.  Once passed by the Parliament, it will become “the first law on climate change in Spain and one of the first in Southern Europe,” he concluded.

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  • On the right, Catalan Minister for Territory,Josep Rull, at ESPO Conference in Barcelona (by ACN)

  • On the right, Catalan Minister for Territory,Josep Rull, at ESPO Conference in Barcelona (by ACN)