Catalonia, Valencia and Murcia combine forces for the Mediterranean Railway Corridor to be included as a European priority
The presidents of Catalonia, the Valencian Community and the Region of Murcia met in Barcelona to ask the Spanish Government to prioritise the construction and inclusion of the Mediterranean Railway Corridor in the European Transport network. This infrastructure is essential for both the Spanish and European economies, as it would transport freight and passengers non-stop from Gibraltar to Stockholm, passing through Valencia, Barcelona and Lyon. In times of public deficit, there is not enough money to build a railway corridor passing through Madrid, and the Spanish Government has to prioritise the Mediterranean Corridor, which links the main export and industrial centres in the country with Europe.
Barcelona (ACN).- Catalonia, the Valencian Community and the Region of Murcia are forming a common front to push for the construction of the Mediterranean Railway Corridor to transport freight and passengers non-stop from Gibraltar to Central Europe. The presidents of Catalonia, Artur Mas, the Valencian Community, Alberto Fabra, and the Region of Murcia, Ramón Luís Valcárcel, met on Friday in Barcelona to make a joint statement defending the urgency and absolute need to prioritise the construction of this infrastructural project. Mas is the leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition ‘Convergència i Unió’ (CiU) and Fabra and Valcárcel are regional leaders of Spain’s main opposition party, the People’s Party (PP). The Mediterranean Railway Corridor is essential for the Spanish economy, as well as for the entire European economy. It would link the Spanish Mediterranean ports, which are a gateway to North Africa and represent 50% of the Spanish population and wealth. In addition, most of the exports are concentrated in this area. With this railway, the Mediterranean ports would be linked with Central and Northern Europe with an international-width-standard railway. This means that trains carrying goods could go non-stop from Algeciras, Valencia or Barcelona ports to Lyon, Hamburg or Stockholm. The European Union has to issue a reviewed version of the European Transport Networks next October 19th, which outlines transport priorities that will receive EU funds for their construction. Since there is no money to build all possible infrastructural projects, even more so in times of crisis, Catalonia, Valencia and Murcia are asking the Spanish Government to think about economic recovery and prioritise the construction of the Mediterranean Railway Corridor. If the Spanish Government decides to prioritise this project, the EU would include it among the next priorities and pay 10% of it. All experts coincide in the profits this infrastructure would bring. The Catalan President Artur Mas warned the Spanish Government: “Turning your back on the Mediterranean Corridor would be suicide for the Spanish economy”. On September 21st there will be a conference in Brussels to once again insist on the need to include this infrastructural project among the next EU transport priorities. The Catalan President already confirmed his attendance.
The presidents of three Spanish Autonomous Communities met in Barcelona to make their common stance to push for the construction of the Mediterranean Railway Corridor visible to everybody. It would cost 50 billion euros and would be completed within ten years. Artur Mas, Alberto Fabra and Ramón Luís Valcárcel are asking the Spanish Government to go beyond a centralist and radial model when planning infrastructures and think logically economically, especially in times of economic difficulties. They are asking to make the construction of the Mediterranean Railway Corridor for freight and passenger an absolute priority, being above other options, and to be included within the European Transport Networks in order to get EU funding. They are accusing the Spanish Government of not having been clear enough with its commitment to build this infrastructure and defending its need before the EU. The three presidents asked the Spanish Government to release a public document explaining to the EU “the priority and the need” for this infrastructure. They want the Spanish Government to clarify that the European Mediterranean Corridor is its top priority over other options, mainly the Central Corridor, linking Gibraltar with Madrid and Zaragoza. The presidents of Catalonia, Valencia and Murcia fear that if the Spanish Government does not prioritise, the European Commission will not include it as a priority, as resources are limited. Therefore, without the clear and unequivocal support from the Spanish Government, the Mediterranean Corridor is at risk. In addition, the Spanish Government has said on several occasions that the section between Almería and Algeciras may not be built, leaving the Corridor incomplete in its southern part. The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mar, emphasised that the Corridor must be built “from the Pyrenees to Algeciras” along the Mediterranean coast, because “it needs to link the North African economy with the European”.
Artur Mar, explained his beliefs in a statement: “In the next few years, it will not be possible to build infrastructural projects only to look good, but to move in the right direction”. Mas was indirectly accusing the Spanish Government of having planned infrastructures as a way to win votes in certain areas, and not looking for the greatest benefit for the Spanish economy. Mas emphasised that the country is at a “key moment, the critical moment [when EU decisions are to be taken], and (we) have to fully push for the right outcome”. The President of the Valencian Community’s Government, Alberto Fabra, stated that “only the infrastructural projects that are the most productive have a place in the coming years’ budgets”. And the Mediterranean Railway Corridor “is a very clear need”, he added. Ramón Luís Valcárcel, the President of the Murcian Government, asked the Spanish Government to honour its public statements supporting this infrastructural project and sent a unequivocal message to the EU “by releasing a document addressed to the European Union and the European Commission to clarify the Spanish Government’s stance”. Valcárcel was indirectly referring to some contradictory statements by the Spanish Minister for Public Works, José Blanco, by which he said that the Central Corridor remains a priority, together with the Mediterranean one. The three presidents coincide that in current times there are not enough funds to build both projects at the same time, and that the most profitable of the two is the Mediterranean Corridor.
The Mediterranean Railway Corridor is essential for the European economy
This infrastrucural project would link by international-width standard rail Spain’s main ports in Barcelona, Tarragona, Valencia, Cartagena, Almería, Málaga and Algeciras, which are a gateway to North Africa, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, with Central and Northern Europe. In addition, the Mediterranean Corridor would connect most of Spain’s largest industrial areas, responsible for most of the country's exports, with France and the rest of Europe. This infrastructure would transport freight but also passengers through a High Speed Train network. It would connect all of Spain’s Mediterranean coastal resorts and cities, which are one of the world’s main tourist destinations, with Central Europe and important airports and cruise ports.
The Spanish Government has been imposing a radial infrastructural model with political logic taking priority to economic logic
The Spanish Government asked the EU in 2003 to include the so-called Central Corridor, going from Gibraltar to Toulouse passing through Madrid, Zaragoza and the Central Pyrenees; the Mediterranean Corridor was then marginalised. However, France announced that it would prioritise the Mediterranean connection with Spain and not through the Central Pyrenees, because it is cheaper to build and industrial areas are on the coast. The Spanish Government modified the Central Corridor project: it would go from Madrid to Zaragoza and then to Barcelona. This would exclude Valencia, Murcia and Eastern Andalucía.
In the last number of years, economic sectors from Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia and parts of Andalucía, together with public administrations, have been pushing the Spanish Government and the EU institutions to finally include the Mediterranean Railway Corridor. They created the lobby group Ferrmed, which received the support of many business associations across Europe, interested in linking Central and Northern Europe with Spain’s Mediterranean coast and North Africa. On September 21st there will be a conference in Brussels to once again insist on the need to include this infrastructure among the next EU transport priorities. The Catalan President already confirmed his attendance.