Puigdemont urges Spain to listen to Europe and promote the Mediterranean Corridor
Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont celebrated the “consensus” that the construction of the Mediterranean Railway Corridor has amongst the political, social and economic agents in Catalonia and also amongst the regional governments involved in the construction, such as those of Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Murcia. However, he urged Spain’s executive “to listen” to their demands and also to Europe’s warnings and promote thislong-awaited piece of infrastructure which is set to transport freight and passengers non-stop from Gibraltar to Central Europe. Indeed, the European Court of Auditors reported on Tuesday that the EU “had not been effective in enhancing rail freight transport” and that the targets for “the number of freight trains and the tonnage of goods transported” on the section between Spain and France, which has still to be completed, “are far from being achieved”.
Barcelona (CNA).- Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, called for the Spanish Government to promote the Mediterranean Railway Corridor, a long-awaited piece of infrastructure which is set to transport freight and passengers non-stop from Gibraltar to Central Europe. Puigdemont celebrated the “consensus” that the infrastructure has amongst the regional governments, such as those of Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Murcia, but lamented that the whole situation is “in stoppage time”. The Catalan President also referred to the report published on Tuesday by the European Court of Auditors which stated that the EU “had not been effective in enhancing rail freight transport” and emphasised that both the target for number of freight trains and that for tonnage of goods transported through the cross\u2011border section between Spain and France “are far from being achieved”. In the same vein, European Commission Spokesperson for Transport Jakub Adamowicz asked for “cooperation between all levels of administration” to “implement” the Corridor, as it is a “very important” infrastructure.
“We are in stoppage time and this European warning confirms it”, stated Puigdemont after meeting with the Strategic Board for the Mediterranean Railway Corridor, which gathered together around 120 people, including representatives from the parliamentary groups in the Catalan chamber, trade unions, business associations, chambers of commerce, professional colleges, universities, chartered institutes and city halls. Puigdemont praised the “consensus” that the construction of the Corridor has amongst the members of the board and also amongst the regional governments involved in the construction, such as those of Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Murcia, the territories through which the Corridor is set to pass.
However, Puigdemont urged the Spanish government “to listen” to their demands and also to Europe’s warnings and promote thislong-awaited piece of infrastructure. The next meeting of the Strategic Board for the Mediterranean Railway Corridor will take place in Valencia. Then “a clear and convincing message will be sent to those territories involved, especially the Spanish State and the EU”, he stated and added that although this might not be the “last chance” it has to “look as though it is”.
The EU “has not been effective in enhancing rail freight transport”
The European Court of Auditors reported that on Tuesday that “rail freight transport in the EU has failed over the last 15 years to respond effectively to the competition presented by road transport”. In their latest report, the Court pointed out that “the rail freight transport performance in the EU is persistently unsatisfactory in terms of modal share and volumes transported”. The document also stated that “the strategic and regulatory issues identified” are of such nature that “if not addressed, extra funding for rail infrastructure will not by itself resolve the problems identified and increase the competitiveness of rail freight transport”.
Therefore, the report recommends that “the Member States, together with the Commission, should improve the coordination of rail investments in order to maximise their effectiveness and avoid the rail network being developed in a piecemeal fashion”.
Cross\u2011border section between Spain and France underused
Out of 18 projects selected by the Court for review, two are located on the rail freight corridor between Spain and France. The report stated that “the quantitative targets in terms of the number of freight trains and the tonnage of goods transported on this section”, which is still not completed, “are far from being achieved”.
According to the European Court of Auditors, only 3% of total inland freight traffic between Spain and France, which amounts to around 90 million tonnes per year, is transported over the Pyrenees by rail. Despite the installation of a third railway line, during 2011 and 2012 this “was only used by a maximum of two to three freight trains per day”, and “not a single freight or passenger train has ever used the third rail since the entry into service of a new high-speed line in January 2013 with a similar route”.
The other project being studied is the new international Perpignan-Figueres railway section between France and Spain. In the first 3 years of operation (2011-2013) the annual number of freight trains using the stretch was 357 (with only 636 in 2012 and 931 in 2013), which is to be compared to the expected 8,665 freight trains for the first year of operation and a target of 19,759 freight trains in 2019. In practical terms it means that, on average, fewer than four freight trains per day used the line.
Puigdemont referred to these figures, which he described as “very eloquent”. “The fact that nearly 20,000 trains will pass along the Corridor and that currently there are less than 1,000 means that we are losing jobs, competitiveness and opportunities for our economy”, he stated.
The EC calls for “cooperation” between administrations
Spokesperson for Transport at the European Commission, Jakub Adamowicz, considered it “very important” to “implement” the Mediterranean Railway Corridor and called for “cooperation between all levels of administrations”. "We know that implementation of the Mediterranean Railway Corridor is very important and that it requires the cooperation of all levels of administration. If all the actors know what they have to do, then we could see progress", he stated in an interview with CNA.
Adamowicz also played down the delay in its construction and assured that “building railways and roads can’t be done from one day to the next” and that it is necessary “to think in the long term”. “We are not worried because we have to regard it with a long-term perspective, the objective is 2030 and we are in 2016”, he concluded.