Regional trains in Catalonia to be managed from 1st of January 2011 by Catalan Government

Trains with origins and destinations in Catalonia will be managed by the Catalan Government beginning in 2011. Medium-speed trains (called Avant) are not included. A commission will quantify the cost of the service. The agreement follows what has already been agreed on in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, approved in 2006.

CNA / Xavier Alsinet / Gaspar Pericay Coll

October 21, 2010 12:22 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- Today the Spanish Minister for Transport, José Blanco, and the Catalan President, José Montilla, agreed that the regional train service will be transferred to the Catalan Government on the 1st of January 2011. However, the agreement does not include medium-speed trains (called Avant) and the cost of the service, which will be calculated by a commission before the end of the year. After managing short-distance trains for 1 year now, which connect Barcelona’s Metropolitan Area, the Spanish Government has now accepted to transfer regional trains that start and end in Catalonia. The Catalan President stressed the “high political and symbolic value” of this action. Short-distance and regional train services have experienced serious and continuous problems in Catalonia in the past years, which have infuriated many people. The claim for the Catalan Government to manage the trains was a priority backed by a large part of the Catalan society and a recurrent demand by most of the political and economic class.

The regional service had 11 million passengers in 2009, a much smaller figure than the short-distance trains. This means 800 trains per week. However, the agreement is important, as it would enable the Catalan Government to manage and plan all of the regular passenger trains circulating in Catalonia. Medium-speed trains crossing Catalonia’s borders, such as the high-speed service and regular long-distance trains, will remain under the management of the Spanish state.

The meeting between both politicians lasted less than 1 hour and took place in the seat of the Catalan Government, the Generalitat Palace. The Catalan Minister for Transport, Joaquim Nadal, also participated in the meeting. They decided that the service will be officially transferred on the 1st of January 2011. A commission will analyse the cost of the service before the end of this year, as the service needs to be transferred together with a budget to guarantee its functioning. The Catalan Government will manage the regulation, planning, daily-management, coordination and inspection of the service, as well as the price-policy.

This agreement is also important politically as there are elections in Catalonia on the 28th of November. The transfer was already agreed on in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, approved by the Spanish Parliament (as well as by the Catalan Parliament and via referendum) in 2006. More then 4 years later, the competence will finally be deployed and the Catalan Government will assume this service. This transfer was a historical demand by most of the political parties, a large part of the business class and society in general. The Spanish Minister also stated that another historical demand, the Mediterranean Railway Corridor, will soon present its first technical study. Blanco stressed that his Ministry considers railway investments in Catalonia as a top priority.