New deal on Catalonia's commuter train service ready to go, says Renfe head
President of state rail operator says signing contract with Catalan government only depends on state transferring funds owed
The head of state rail operator Renfe, Isaías Táboas, has confirmed that an agreement with the Catalan government to extend the Rodalies regional commuter train service for the next few years is ready to go ahead.
All that remains for both parties to sign a new contract, says Táboas, is for the state transport ministry to transfer 270 million euros to cover the so-called fare deficit, which is the shortfall between what the service costs and what passengers pay to use it.
While the Catalan government runs the commuter system, it is operated by Renfe, which receives the fare deficit directly from the state authorities. However, the Catalan government argues that it should receive the funds and then transfer them to the rail operator.
"We will be able to sign an agreement once this part, which neither the secretary [of the Catalan government's infrastructure department] nor I can finalize, is on track," said Táboas at a congress on infrastructure on Friday.
Catalan authorities want right to "rescind" contract
The Catalan government's territory minister, Damià Calvet, confirmed that until the funds had been transferred, the deal cannot be completed, and he also called for the possibility of terminating the contract if the service provided is not of sufficient quality.
"When the investment and transfer of funds have been carried out, we will be able to sign the contract with Renfe, with such elements of quality control, if required, as rescinding the service and going to more reliable operators," he said.
Management of the Rodalies service was devolved to the Catalan government a decade ago, but Calvet said that the system remains "unreliable" because the state authorities have not made the investment it needs, such as four billion euros pledged in 2015.
The Rodalies rail system is made up of 17 commuter lines mostly around the Barcelona area, serving 203 stations throughout Catalonia. An average number of 1,000 trains run on the system every day, carrying almost 120 million passengers a year.