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The disaster of the Madrid-Lleida line joins the chapapote

The disaster of the Madrid-Lleida line joins the chapapote

By By José Luis Ordóñez

The eagerness of a minister has exposed the anti-ecological policy that the Government of José María Aznar deploys in the field of transport. The minister has left a heavy inheritance, he has sunk the railway as an ecological, social and economic good, and now it is up to society to pay for the broken dishes and regain the dignity of the motorized mode of transport that has more advantages.

The eagerness of a minister has exposed the anti-ecological policy deployed by the Government of José María Aznar in the field of transport. The minister dreamed of inaugurating the Madrid-Zaragoza-Lleida section of the new Madrid-Barcelona-rontera line on a symbolic day, October 12, 2002, Columbus Day according to Franco, Hispanic Day according to late-night evocations, or Day del Pilar according to the Zaragoza festivities. This minister has left a heavy inheritance, he has sunk the railroad as an ecological, social and economic good, and now it is up to society to pay for the broken dishes and regain the dignity of the motorized mode of transport that brings together more advantages.
As stated in the Valencia Manifesto, for a sustainable, public and social railway, approved on March 9, 2003 by fifty representatives of environmental, union and social organizations and platforms in defense of the railway, the execution of the Infrastructure Plan for Transport 2000 -2007, which foresees the spending of more than 41,000 million euros in high-speed lines with a horizon in 2010, will mean the disappearance of the railway as a public service for the majority of the population and will generate the transformation of rail transport into a service private specially intended for a minority.

This manifesto, born of the social mobilization in favor of the railroad, demands the repeal of the sketch called the 2000-2007 Infrastructure Plan as it is anti-ecological, anti-social and wasteful. The repeal of this plan must mean, on the one hand, the renunciation of the current policy of building lines exclusively dedicated to the circulation of high-speed trains and, on the other hand, the implementation of the policy of improvement and conditioning of the existing lines to form a railway network compatible with the various types of trains, long-distance trains, commuter trains, freight trains, tram-trains, etc. The lines that have been built under the influence of the high-speed trend will have to be reconverted so that they can be used by the different types of rail traffic, thus achieving the due social utility.

In short, the aforementioned document aims to promote the railway by bringing together innumerable environmental, economic and social advantages. In reality, it promotes a quality, accessible, affordable, safe and reliable railway that rebalances and unifies the territory, meets the different demands of society and above all the needs of forced mobility, increases rail freight transport, makes the most of existing infrastructures and serve as an essential instrument to achieve the sustainability of an integrated and multimodal transport system where journeys on foot and by bicycle are contemplated.

These reflections from the environmental world criticize the heavy investments received by cars, trucks, high-speed trains and airplanes, which are precisely the modes and means of transport with the highest energy consumption and the highest production of greenhouse gases. Faced with the continuous chant of the infrastructure deficit that is proclaimed by the various governments, reality shows that in Spain there are more kilometers of motorways and motorways, per inhabitant and vehicle, than in most EU Member States. There are only three companies in the world with more kilometers of motorways and motorways than Spain: Germany, Canada and the USA, but before finishing the 2000-2007 Infrastructure Plan we will have passed Germany. In addition, no other country is building railways to reach the speed of 350 kilometers per hour, at an exorbitant cost and with a rail policy that relegates investments and maintenance on the conventional network. And to further relativize the myth of the goodness of infrastructures, numerous economic studies have been published that question the automatic link between the growth of transport and the development of productive activity. The European Council itself, in the EU Strategy for Sustainable Development approved in Gothenburg in June 2001, pointed out the need to decouple environmental degradation and resource consumption from economic development.

Cantabrian corridor
The proposal to create a Cantabrian railway cross-section, from Ferrol to the French border, passing through Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country, officially appeared on January 24, 2003 in the Galicia Plan, or the Chapapote Plan, is a great victory of the mobilization social and political regarding the lack of coherence of the Infrastructure Plan 2000-2007, which until now had only drawn a radial railway network centered in Madrid and equipped with a single transversal, the one corresponding to the Mediterranean Corridor. The General Government of the State still lacks more transversal to assume, such as the Via de la Plata, the Andalusian inland, the Andalusian coast or the Sub-Madrid from Valencia to Lisbon through Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura.

This success is complemented by the admission of the circulation of freight trains between Tarragona and the French border on the new Madrid-Barcelona-border line, the purchase of numerous types of trains for Renfe: AVE 102 (previously called Talgo 350), AVE 103 (formerly known as ICE 350 E), two AVE 104 models (one of them with automatic gauge change), and 44 variable gauge powerheads to compose Altaria day trains and Trenhotel type night trains. We are, therefore, facing a completely different situation than in 1990 when a single AVE 101 train was acquired for the Madrid-Seville line. Railway lines with mixed passenger and freight traffic, and with a great diversity of services and types of trains, allow the implementation of a large number of stations and stops, and the set of all these circumstances facilitates the existence of a public and environmentally friendly railway. sustainable.

If it is taken into consideration that the president of the German railway company Deutsche Bahn, belonging to the EU Member State where rail is most used, pointed out, at the Eurailspeed 2002 congress held in Madrid last October, that its main income came from commuter trains and freight trains, with ICE trains registering only 8 percent of sales, more significant is the inconsistency of the policy defined in the 2000-2007 Infrastructure Plan whose strategy is to generate a railway network of 8,200 km of high-speed lines (7,200 km to the Galicia Plan and 8,200 km from the ecological disaster of the chapapote). Germany avoided from the beginning the TGV fashion imposed by France and which has been followed in Spain both in the 1993-2007 Infrastructure Master Plan and in the 200-2007 Infrastructure Plan.

But even more incoherent is the policy of the Government of Aznar, considering the change in attitude of the French railway company SNCF, which no longer advocates high-speed lines with exclusive passenger train traffic, and has begun to defend the economic importance and the social coherence of building and operating mixed traffic lines.

It seems as if the transport manual of the Minister of Public Works had been anchored in the 1980s and 1990s, since it also does not assume the reorientation of the criteria of the trans-European rail network that is currently being debated in the EU, and which deletes from the map the high-speed lines to promote rail transport of both passengers and goods on all lines, with the aim of improving the ecological, economic and social performance of European transport.

Railway Sector Law

Now, when the Draft Law on the Railway Sector has been presented to the Congress of Deputies, it is perhaps the time to open a rigorous and transparent debate on the future of the railway in Spain. A debate that allows to analyze the current situation and propose future solutions in accordance with the knowledge and needs of society. A broad and in-depth debate that has the participation of political organizations, environmental associations, unions, business confederations, neighborhood associations, universities, researchers, platforms in defense of the railroad and the general public. It is a postponed debate, which was frustrated when it began to be carried out around the document of the Infrastructure Master Plan 1993-2007, and which has not arisen with the scheme of the Infrastructure Plan for Transport 2000-007.

The Valencia Manifesto points out the need to develop a Railways Master Plan, within a Multimodal and Integrating Master Plan for Transport Infrastructures, which arises from debate and participation. A plan of these characteristics will undoubtedly contemplate the improvement and modernization of the current railway network, the integration of the existing railway lines, the execution of pending links, the construction of transversal lines, the creation of new urban and metropolitan networks in the main cities, the introduction of urban surface railways such as light rail or tram, the reopening of closed lines, the enhancement of modal interchanges, the promotion of intermodal platforms, and, ultimately, make the railway the backbone of the transport system.

Faced with the privatization proposal contained in the Draft Law of the Railway Sector, in accordance with the Draft Regulatory Law of the Public Works Concession Contract, the civic platforms propose the maintenance of the railway as a public service of public ownership. Although the policy of the General State Government is to segregate the administration of the railway infrastructure and the provision of the transport service, Adif and Renfe, into two different companies, once again we have to turn to the president of Deutsche Bahn to understand that safety requires the union between infrastructure management and transport execution. In fact, DB, Deutsche Bahn, is a public business consortium that includes both the DB Netz company, the party in charge of infrastructure administration, and the DB Cargo and DB Regio companies, the parties in charge of freight trains and commuter trains. This infrastructure-transportation unit configures a system that is the main guarantee of safety. In the railway, the elements of regulation, control and traffic safety are common for vehicles and infrastructure, their separation and privatization can give rise to the chain of accidents suffered by the British railway, and it seems that in advance of complete privatization we have already started to suffer on the Spanish railroad.

Privatization called liberalization

The liberalization-privatization of rail in the UK, where the British Government has had to rescue Railtrack railway infrastructure from private hands, has revealed where the privatization of public services is leading. There was an increase in spending in the General State Budgets, higher prices, loss of security and consequent increase in accidents, destruction and precariousness of employment, and disappearance of lines, therefore there is opposition to the General Agreement on Trade in Services , AGCS, of the World Trade Organization that seeks the privatization of all public services and in particular the privatization of the railroad.

The debate on the future of the Spanish railway may correct the tendency of the current transport group towards unsustainability. Establishing criteria, standards and measures that contribute to the drastic reduction of motorized traffic in general and of the automobile in particular, causing serious environmental, territorial, economic and social impacts and their corresponding external costs (costs that totaled 45,000 million euros in Spain in nineteen ninety five). The objective would be to change the current modal distribution of transport, favor non-motorized journeys and achieve a greater participation of the railroad both in the forced mobility of people and in the transfer of goods. In this way, it would help to reduce energy waste (50 percent of energy consumption is carried out in transport) and pollution caused by transport (56 percent of urban greenhouse gas emissions are generated by transport) , on the way to a fairer and more sustainable society.

For this reason, the organizations that support the Valencia Manifesto reiterate their total opposition to the construction of lines exclusively designed for the circulation of high-speed trains, denounce the current transport system characterized by the unsustainable growth of the road, and denounce the progressive implementation of a double rail network, with heavy investments in European gauge lines designed for high-speed trains that are usable by a minority with high purchasing power and lack of investment in Iberian gauge lines where the commuter trains that are used circulate by the vast majority of people, since while AVE trains register 11,500 trips / day, commuter trains exceed 1,560,000 trips / day.

Likewise, they denounce the unfortunate state in which most of the railway network is located, the numerous accidents and derailments that have occurred in recent months, the elimination of only 5 percent of the 815 crossings at the level of mandatory suppression, and the recognition by the Ministry of Development itself that 20 percent of the railway network does not reach the acceptable rating. These data show where the railway policy of the Government of Aznar leads us, abandonment of the railway and application of huge amounts of public money to projects aimed at wealthy minorities.-


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