The 2012/04/30 at 07:43
Valérie Demon, in Madrid
Infrastructure works to develop the Mediterranean Corridor will need to adapt to the budget cuts undergone by the Spanish Ministry for Development. Incorporated into the trans-European transport network by the European Commission in October 2011, this Corridor is meant to revitalise the economic communities of Eastern Spain (read "Rail transport: the EU supports the Mediterranean corridor"). But the crisis has swollen, the government has changed political colours, and Spain’s respect of deficit objectives has become vital. As a result, ministerial budgets have shrunk; that of the Ministry for Development (which manages major infrastructures) has not escaped the shears.
While passenger transport is already partially ensured by high-speed train lines, efforts still need to be made for freight. The final project, scheduled for 2020, is to consist of two tracks for passengers and two tracks for freight. The former passenger network was initially to have been transformed into two tracks for freight, with mixed rail widths allowing trains from Europe to use them. Ana Pastor, the Minister for Development, made an alternative decision during a visit to Valencia. She supports the advancement of works, but these will now consist in technically adapting a third track to the European width standard. She foresees a 1.23 billion euro budget from 2013 onwards.
The Director General of Transport for the Valencia region also believes “that a four-track platform with a mixed rail width would take time and require a very high investment”. While works on the three tracks are practically completed between the French border and Barcelona, with a connection to the city’s port, freight connections will be adapted up to Valencia by 2014, with connections to the port, the Ford Spain plants, and the ports of Castellón and Sagunto. Further south, Alicante, is to be subsequently linked up in 2016. “This seems to be a good temporary solution, a good compromise; between two kilometres with four tracks and 557 kilometres up to Valencia and Alicante offered by this midway solution, I prefer the second, it’s a realistic solution,” believes Cristian Bardaji, Infrastructure Studies Manager at the Chamber of Commerce of Barcelona.
But will this intermediary solution only be provisional? Even if the Minister has specified that this third rail is only be “the first phase of a major project”, she has made no declarations on specific dates for the development of the Corridor according to the initial project. “We all knew that this was a big project. What remains to be seen is whether money will be available. We will see in coming years how to adapt it to passenger and freight traffic: everything will demand on demand,” continues Cristian Bardaji. For the moment, nothing has been decided on for links between Alicante and Algesiras.