Passengers ferry traffic to Palma has fallen by 13 per cent this year while during the first ten months, the number of cruise passengers rose by four per cent. President of the Balearic Port Authority, Francesc Triay, said yesterday that passenger traffic to the Balearics has fallen by eight per cent overall, claiming that the lack of fast ferries and the uneconomical services operating are to blame for the decline in ferry passengers. However, these final two months of the year are expected to witness an increase in ferry traffic and a drop in the number of cruise passengers. The European cruise sector, extremely popular with the US market has been hard hit since September 11 while the reduction in flights between the Balearics and the mainland, along with an increase in the number of people worried about flying, will boost ferry passenger figures. Triay called a meeting yesterday to announce the Port Authority's expansion plans for the Port of Palma next year. 600 million pesetas is to be spent on new state-of-the-art gangways for cruise and passenger ships which will be fitted with conveyor belts for luggage. But while Triay is pleased with the work which has been carried out along the Paseo Maritimo and the improvements carried out to the Port of Palma this year, he expressed his concerns for the new sea front the council plans to build along the entrance to Palma. Triay said that no solution has been found for the problem caused by all the heavy goods vehicles using the commercial docks, which will only get worse as merchant shipping activity in Palma increases. Triay stressed the need for access to the commercial quays to be improved so that the traffic bottlenecks along the stretch of road from the GESA building to the Cathedral become a thing of the past. Pedestrians can then wander around the area, which is used by the tour coaches, safely. mc.mdbUbitel.es

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