GOVERNMENT DECLARES RAILWAY PROJECT A SUCCESS

By Humphrey Carter

THE number of people using Majorca's railway at the end of last year was over double the number of passengers in 1998, an achievement the Balearic government considers a milestone in its push to encourage more people to use public transport and a vote of confidence by the public in the railway. The government has invested millions of euros, diverted from building more motorways, in expanding the island's railway. Transport Minister Francesc Quetglas admitted that he was “proud” of the figures which show that between 1998 and 2002, passenger numbers rose by 56 per cent. During that time, the Inca to Sa Pobla line has been opened, although marred by an accident just months after it opened which is still being investigated, the renovation of a number of local stations, improvements along the lines and commencement on work for the new Palma to Manacor line which will be completed this year. The government has also launched a number of bus/rail services for rural area such as Alaró, Sencelles, Costix, Santa María and Inca as well as the “one-day travel card” system for the Marratxi area. However, the icing on the government's public transport cake, is the Sa Pobla to Manacor link which is 80 per cent complete. Quetglas said yesterday that the project would be even more advanced had it not been for the PP-fuelled resistance from local residents in Petra. The government however, has not only had its hands tied by the local opposition, but also by central government's reluctance to help fund Majorca's railway expansion, unless the Balearics signs up to the national high speed rail project. The local government, providing it remains in power, is unlikely to be bullied into falling in line with Madrid, but does intend to push ahead with plans for Sa Pobla to Alcudia line, the Manacor to Cala Ratjada link and a viability study on the new connection from the centre of Palma to the Balearic university is already underway. Quetglas said yesterday that since 1998, all of the trains have been replaced with new ones, safety has been improved and that, during the week, the number of train services has risen by nearly 50 per cent and 20 per cent on Sundays and bank holidays. Over the past three years, the government has invested a little less than 100 million euros in Majorca's railway system and it appears to be paying dividends although the PP yesterday slammed the government's rail policy as a “disaster.”

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