The European Commission would include the Mediterranean Railway Corridor as an EU transport priority

According to some MEPs, the international-width high-speed railway corridor for freight and passengers along Spain’s Mediterranean coast that connects ports, industrial centres and tourist resorts would be included in the next priority map of European transport networks. The necessary infrastructural project for the EU economy would link Central and Northern Europe with Spain’s ports that trade directly with North Africa and Asia, enabling trains going non-stop on international-width railway. The EU would pay for 25% of its cost. The Central Corridor passing through Madrid, Zaragoza and the Central Pyrenees would fall from the list, as economic criteria are decisive in times of economic difficulties. However, the definitive list will be released on October 19th.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

October 5, 2011 09:19 PM

Brussels (ACN).- The European Commission would include the Mediterranean Railway Corridor among the next European transport priorities, according to some MEPs. The latest version of the map on which the European Commission is working would include a railway axis for freight and a high-speed train service for passengers along Spain’s Mediterranean coast, the so-called Mediterranean Railway Corridor. It would link by international-width standard tracks Central and Northern Europe with Barcelona, Tarragona, Valencia, Alacant, Murcia and Cartagena, where it would stop. This railway corridor would transport freight from Lyon, Hamburg or Stockholm to Spain’s Mediterranean ports that trade with North Africa and Asia. The corridor would also include a high-speed train service, which would link tourist and business centres such as Barcelona, the Tarragona coast or Valencia with France’s network and the rest of Europe. The Mediterranean Railway Corridor is not only a key infrastructural project for the economies of Catalonia, Valencia or Spain, but for the entire EU. The Spanish Government would be responsible for its construction, which is estimated at 50 billion euros in 10 years. However the EU would pay for 25% of costs. The original project foresees a last section that would link Algeciras Port in the Gibraltar region, Málaga and Almeria with Murcia and the rest of the corridor. However, the European Commission (EC) would have chosen not to include this last part going through Andalusia. FERRMED considers the Corridor’s final section, which links Algeciras with Murcia and the rest of the Corridor, to be of great importance as it facilitates an exchange with North Africa. In addition, the EC would have excluded the so-called Central Railway Corridor, which had been included in 2003 and links Algeciras, Madrid, and Zaragoza with France cutting through the Central Pyerenees and excluding Murcia, Valencia and Catalonia. This option would have been put aside as its construction costs are enormous and it has a much smaller economic profitability, as it mainly responds to political criteria. The European Commission has not confirmed any of this information but stated that economic criteria would be those used to make the final decision. The definitive list will be released on October 19th. The Catalan Government is confident that the Mediterranean Corridor will be in this list but remains cautious.

The Governments of Catalonia, the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands and Murcia have been lobbying intensively lately to achieve their objective. The Catalan President, Artur Mas, has held interviews with the President of the European Commission, with several key Commissioners and with the European Council President to defend this transport project, which would bring benefits for the entire European economy. Mas said on Wednesday that “this will turn out well”, when referring to the information indicating that the Mediterranean Railway Corridor would be a European priority. He stressed the effort his Government has made to make sure the EU institutions understand the need and the benefits of the railway corridor. The Catalan MEP Ramon Tremosa stated that "I had never seen before such a great will to make the economic efficiency criteria prevail". "We had enough of building infrastructures where there is nothing or nobody", he added. Productive regions are those that "have to be the European engines once again", he concluded.

The Mediterranean Corridor, a project supported by business communities

Civil society organisations and the business community of the regions involved have been pursuing great efforts to explain the enormous advantages of the project and create synergies with Central and Northern European companies, chambers of commerce, and business associations. They organised around the FERRMED association. FERRMED has been lobbying in the last number years at all possible levels, in Brussels but also across Europe. They are confident that this time the Mediterranean Railway Corridor will be included as a priority, but reminded the Corridor has to be included in its entirety, including the last section going through Andalusia and arriving at Algeciras Port, next to Gibraltar. 

The Mediterranean Corridor, a key infrastructure for Europe

This railway corridor 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.

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.

Catalonia, the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands and Murcia are home to 40% of Spain’s population, 40% of its GDP, 50% of its agricultural production, 55% of the industrial production, almost 60% of land goods transportation, more than 65% of sea goods traffic, 60% of exports, and 60% of international tourists visiting Spain.

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.