Article published at Catalan News Agency, 29th November 2016
Brussels (CNA).- The workers of Adif, the Spanish public body in charge of the railway infrastructure in Tarragona (southern Catalonia), reported this Tuesday to Brussels “the lack of investment and personnel” of the company, which threatens a “strategic sector” and impedes providing a “safe and quality” service in Catalonia, they warned. “We share the annoyance of the Catalan Government regarding the Spanish Government’s breaches of its commitments”, said the rail national secretary of UGT-Catalonia, José Bravo, to the Catalan News Agency. Workers recalled that the Catalan network has 126 “black spots” (14.3% of which are in Tarragona), which represent “significant delays in traffic and a risk to safety”. Tarragona and the Ebro zones are historically the ones which receive the least investment in infrastructure and incidents on the railways are frequent and endemic.
“The current solution to infrastructure in bad conditions is to establish temporary speed restrictions or rule out these facilities. We believe that when a deficiency is detected what should be done is solve it”, stated Bravo. The union UGT recalled that the 2008 agreement between the Catalan Government and the Spanish Government of former president José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to invest €4,000 million and “put the Catalan rail in an optimal state” has been “defaulted on”. Only 10% of the committed investment has been carried out, he added. Furthermore, the Spanish Government of the Conservative People’s Party (PP) has only executed 4.2% of the 2013 agreement to invest €306 million in Catalonia, the “minimum spending necessary to provide a secure service”, he added.
The report that the Adif workers presented in Brussels, at the request of the Catalan MEP from the left wing pro-independence party (ERC), Josep Maria Terricabras, warns, for instance, that the “awful” maintenance of the ‘estació de classificació’ of Tarragona – a station aimed at receiving freight trains, separate wagons and building new trains – “exposes the entire population to potentially dangerous risks”. “In the last three years there has been 13 derailments attributable to the infrastructure and on several occasions alarms have had to be activated, as derailed convoys carried hazardous material”, says the text.
In fact, the union lamented that the current Spanish rail policy in Catalonia is a one of “divestment” in order to reduce “to the minimum” the company and privatise it. Adif Tarragona workers also criticised the “model of total separation between the infrastructure and the transport operator”, Adif and Renfe. They said this separation is “wrong” and urged the Spanish Government to go for a public holding model, which would be more efficient and is currently allowed by European regulations.
19% less personnel in Tarragona in a decade
Bravo lamented the lack of staff of the company, specifically in Tarragona, which has seen its workforce reduced by 19% in 9 years. According to Bravo, “the lack of sufficient staff to adequately maintain the rail facilities” impedes workers’ ability to “move when there is a deficiency in the shortest possible time and to restore the service when it is damaged”.
Bravo avoided assessing whether the Spanish Government should transfer all control over the railway to the Catalan Government and highlighted that the important thing is that “whatever the administration” does “it has to do” with the necessary “tools”. However, according to Bravo, it is “reasonable” that the Catalan Government alleges the breaches of Adif and the Ministry of Public Works because “they cannot hold the powers of a public service without the tools to develop a quality service”.
Adif Tarragona workers travelled to Brussels at the request of the ERC MEP, Josep Maria Terricabras, and accompanied by the Member of the Spanish Parliament Jordi Salvador and the Senator Laura Castel. The agenda for their visit includes a meeting with the Chairman of the Committee on Transport of the European Parliament, the German Michael Cramer, and with the general direction of the European Commission for this matter.