The Spanish Government recognises a €5.75 billion lack of investment in railway infrastructure in Catalonia

After last week’s minor train accident, the Spanish Minister for Transport, Ana Pastor, wanted to personally check Barcelona Metropolitan Area’s railway infrastructure. Pastor has recognised that the Spanish Government had not invested the required amount in railway infrastructure in Catalonia. She said that €5.748 billion has not been invested. Many Catalan voices have criticised the Spanish Government’s lack of investment in key transport infrastructure for Catalonia’s economy.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

February 13, 2012 10:53 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish Minister for Public Works and Transport, Ana Pastor, has recognised a huge lack of investment in railway infrastructure in Catalonia. She said on Monday that the Spanish Government has not invested €5.75 billion in railway infrastructure in Catalonia. After last week’s minor train accident in Mataró (a coastal city in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area), Pastor wanted all the latest data on Barcelona’s commuter train network, as well as pending rail projects. On Thursday morning a commuter train crashed into an end-of-track buffer, causing minor injuries to 10 people and serious yet not life threatening injuries to the driver. The causes of the incident are not clear yet, but several small accidents have affected commuter trains in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, whose infrastructure depends on the Spanish Government. On Monday, Pastor visited the control centre of Barcelona’s short-distance train network, as well as the construction works of La Sagrera train station, which will be Barcelona’s main train station, a key communication centre linking high-speed trains, with regional and commuter trains, as well as metro. Pastor was joined by the Catalan Minister for Transport and Sustainability, Lluís Recoder, who said he had never heard a Spanish Minister recognising so clearly such a lack of investment. Recoder praised “the seriousness” and “change of attitude” of the Spanish Government by making the statement. In fact, in Catalonia, there is a constant claim that the Spanish Government does not invest the needed amount of money in key infrastructure for the Catalan economy, such as Barcelona’s commuter train network, Barcelona Airport, high-speed train connections, and freight transportation by rail. This historic lack of investment has harmed the Catalan economy and has fuelled Catalan nationalism, which considers that Catalonia is being economically drained.

Ana Pastor recognised on Monday that the Spanish Government has €5,748 million pending to invest only in railway infrastructure in Catalonia, as foreseen in an investment plan agreed on in 2008. However, she did not say when the required investment will be made. This lack of investment mainly affects the maintenance of the commuter train network of Barcelona, the development of high-speed train services in Catalonia, construction work of La Sagrera Train Station, and a modernisation of freight railway access to Barcelona Port. The Spanish Government agreed to invest €4 billion in the maintenance and update of the commuter train network and stations in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area over the period 2008-2015. On February 2012, the Spanish Government has only invested €352 million, 8.77% of the total amount. Therefore there is €3.6 billion pending for investment. Another example is La Sagrera train station, which will be Barcelona’s main train station and whose construction is essential for the development of an entire neighbourhood and the re-arrangement of rail communication with France, northern Catalonia and the northern part of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area. The Spanish Government had to invest €705 million in La Sagrera’s construction, but it has only given € 45 million so far. Despite this lack of commitment, the construction calendar has not been modified and continues as expected. A last example is the update of rail connections with Barcelona Port, in which the Spanish Government should have invested €400 million. No money has been spent so far on this project.

Security, a priority

Ana Pastor came to Barcelona with the announcement that she will foster the implementation of the security plan for the Catalan capital’s commuter train system, which was foreseen in the framework plan 2008-2015. According to the Catalan Minister for Transport the plan foresaw €510 million to be invested by the Spanish Government to strengthen security, mainly on navigation systems and signals. Only 12% of this money has been invested, €80 million so far. The Spanish Minister for Transport said that the ministry she runs will prioritise this investment, and that she will “not look the other way” and “will face the issue”. Pastor announced she would put in place a new plan strengthening security, aiming to improve the signalling system and the education of human resources, in order to avoid technical and human errors.