A high speed commuter train running between Palma, Marratxi and Inca is to be introduced. The fast service was unveiled yesterday by the SFM Majorcan Railway Company and two new hop-on hop-off stations are to be installed, one in calle Jacinto Verdaguer, to serve people living in Son Oliva, Son Forteza and Rafal Vell and the other in calle Aragón, near the Flex building for residents in Rafal Nou. SFM director, Antonio Santos and the Balearic Minister for Transport and Public Works, Francesc Quetglas, explained yesterday that the commuter train will run non-stop between Inca and Marratxi in order to reduce travelling time for passengers. Antonio Santos also announced that the new Palma to Manacor line, which was approved last year, will be operational once the high speed link to Marratxi is up and running early next year. The railway company's plans for the future were yesterday further boosted by passenger figures for 2001. Last year over two million passengers, 2.031.205, made return journeys, 21 per cent (345.000) more than in 2000. The busiest line is the Palma to Inca service which was used by 850.000 passengers, while the railway extension from Inca to Sa Pobla, which only came in to operation a year ago, carried 182.000 passengers. Quetglas explained that one of the main reasons for the sharp rise in passengers was the inauguration of the new stations at Pont d'Inca, which was used by 27.000 passengers and at the Marratxi industrial estate, used by 26.000 passengers. Also, Palma's parking problems accounted for more people using the train. The Transport Minister also said that the railway's new rail fare offers, which include discounts of up to 40 per cent, have also encouraged more people to travel by train. The two million-plus passengers is however not a record for the railway. Passenger records were set ome 60 years ago when the train was the only means of transport. Santos highlighted the fact that last year, the railway broke the 150'000 passengers per month barrier and that between August 1999 and January this month, passenger loads have risen by 40 per cent. Santos said that SFM have worked hard to improve the railway service, provide better rail times, more attractive fares and offers, introduce new rolling stock and increase the number of staff. “Punctuality is 90 to 95 per cent,” Santos said, adding that trains are running between Palma and Inca “no more than every 20 minutes.” However, the railway is still the biggest money losing public service in the Balearics. Annual revenue is around two million euros, while operating costs are more than double. But, central government in Madrid has offered the Balearics the opportunity to sign up to the national railway programme which would not only secure vast amounts of extra funding, but also engineers and the very latest railway technology.

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