The Mediterranean railway corridor, linking Algeciras with Stockholm, must be a European priority

Politicians and businessmen from Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia and Andalucía participated today in an event pushing for the so called Mediterranean Railway Corridor for freight and passengers. They push the European Union to declare it a European priority, an axe that would vertebrate Europe, from Gibraltar to the Baltic Sea. However, participants criticised that the Spanish Government has yet to show its commitment to building freight railway with European-standard width that would connect Andalucía, Valencia and Barcelona to Central Europe. Besides goods, the corridor should also count with a high-speed train connection for passengers.

CNA / Raquel Correa

January 12, 2011 11:06 PM

Brussels (ACN).- The Spanish high-speed railway plan is mainly radial, with Madrid at the centre of all connections. The rich and industrial Mediterranean shore, lead by Barcelona and Valencia, have long campaigned for a Mediterranean high-speed passenger railway and a European-width freight railway to connect them directly to Europe. The new Catalan Minister for Territory and Sustainability, Lluís Recoder, while in Brussels, has criticised what he considers to be a 'lack of commitment' on the part of the Spanish government regarding this infrastructure.

'If they were completely convinced that this is a priority, they would have acted accordingly', said Recoder during an event to promote the construction of the railway and to push its inclusion into the main infrastructural priorities of the European Union. The minister said that there are other railway options that receive more attention from Madrid than the Mediterranean rail does. According to the minister, this 'is at odds with the institutions and the business sector in Catalonia, Valencia and Murcia'.

Barcelona is the main harbour of Spain with Valencia as its second largest. Besides this, they are the second and third most populated cities in Spain. Catalonia and Valencia are two industrial centres; they produce more than 40% of Spanish exports. The railway connection with Central Europe for goods is therefore seen as a huge business and industrial priority in these areas. In addition, the passenger high-speed train linking both cities with Central Europe and Southern Spain is a strategic infrastructure that has been delayed by the Spanish Government.

'The Spanish state has to believe in having a non-radial transport network', Recorder said. 'By pushing from the Mediterranean area or Europe, we could maybe change the Spanish minister's mind and challenge the idea that everything has to go through Madrid', he added. 

In a similar stance, the president of Murcia, Ramón Luís Valcarcel and the president of the Valencian Community, Francisco Camps, urged the Spanish Government to reconsider its infrastructural priorities. 'Today, Europe needs more than ever to invest in productive infrastructures, and the Valencian Community, Catalonia, Murcia and Andalusia, which generate 50% of Spanish GDP, need a proper railway to facilitate the importation and exportation of goods', argued Camps.

In contrast, the Spanish representatives in the event said that Madrid has 'for a long time' supported the idea of a Mediterranean railway. The general director of Transport, Manel Villalante, reminded assistants that 'the minister for Transport clearly said in a meeting in Zaragoza that the Government would support the inclusion of the Mediterranean corridor in the European transport priorities, and it is working towards that'.

Despite this announcement in Zaragoza, the Mediterranean corridor has not yet been formally included in the list of EU infrastructure's top priorities.