The 2011/11/10 at 14:06
Valérie Demon in Madrid
The incorporation by the European Commission, in October this year, of the Mediterranean Corridor in the Trans-European Transport Network was received by Spain like an early Christmas gift. The Chambers of Commerce of Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, Andalusia and the Balearic Islands, as well as employer associations from the same regions, immediately hailed this decision symbolising “the success of their entrepreneurial unity”. In these times of deep economic crisis and uncertainty about the future, European support for this Corridor means a great deal for a project worth an estimated investment of 51.3 billion euros between now and 2020. Brussels is to cover up to 50 % of financing for study projects and up to 20 % for infrastructure works.
In concrete terms, this Mediterranean Corridor consists of a railway axis from the Franco-Spanish border (near Catalonia) until Algeciras in Andalusia. For economic communities in the east of Spain, this Corridor is significant, for this Mediterranean zone gathers 50 % of the country’s population and represents 44 % of the Spanish GDP (gross domestic product), 50 % of the country’s agricultural production, 55 % of its industrial production, almost 60 % of overland goods traffic, over 65 % of maritime traffic and 60 % of exports and tourism.
As far as passenger transport goes, much of the work is practically completed. The TGV high-speed train between Tarragona and Barcelona is already a reality, and links between the capital of Catalonia and the French border will be finished in 2012. Finally, the TGV will also be arriving next year in Alicante and in 2014, in Murcia.
But a major part of investment will go towards goods transport. A single figure demonstrates the strategic and economic importance of the Corridor: “75 % of transport ships from Asia arrive in northern Europe and the objective, thanks to the Corridor, would be to bring this percentage to 60 %. Ports in northern Europe are more efficient on the one hand, but it is above all this railway link in the south that is missing. This would allow savings of three to four days by ship,” explains Cristian Bardají, Director of Infrastructure Studies at the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce. To this end, railway connections need to be significantly improved. Currently, 96 % of goods transit through Spain by road, compared with around 15 % in France, and almost 20 % in Germany. “Spain must get closer to these figures,” insists Cristian Bardají.
According to a survey by the Universitat Jaume I de Castelló, this Mediterranean Corridor may enable the creation of 64,000 jobs in the autonomous community of Valencia. 25,000 jobs are also set to be created in Catalonia. All good news for a country where the unemployment rate is over 21 % and the number of unemployed persons is not far off the five million mark.