Brussels (ACN).- The Chairman of the Transport Committee of the European Parliament, the British Labour MEP Brian Simpson, supports the inclusion of the Mediterranean Railway Corridor into the next map of the European priority networks. On October 19th the European Commission will announce which are the European transport priorities for the next number of years, which means they will be entitled to receive EU funds for their construction. The Commission has to choose 15 projects among all the proposals from the 27 Member States. The Spanish Government is insisting on proposing three railway corridors for freight and passengers linking Spain with France and thus with Central and Northern Europe: the Atlantic Corridor u2013going through the Basque Country-, the Mediterranean Corridor u2013linking Montpellier, Perpignan with Barcelona, Tarragona, Valencia, Murcia, Almería, Málaga and Algeciras-, and the Central Corridor u2013linking Madrid, Zaragoza and Toulouse through the Central Pyrenees-. In the current context, there is no money available to build these three options. The last option u2013the Central Corridor- was already included in the map in 2003, but it is far more expensive and is based more on political reasons than on economic logic. Work has never started because of the enormous costs. Brian Simpson has warned the Spanish Government that drilling in the Central Pyrenees is u201Cvery very expensiveu201D, and does not make this option u201Cviableu201D in the current context of economic difficulties. In addition, it is not clear if the French Government is willing to build its part, as a year ago French President Nicolas Sarkozy said it was too expensive. On the other hand, the Mediterranean option is cheaper to build and is much more logical from an economic point of view, as freight trains could go non-stop from Central and Northern Europe to Spainu2019s Mediterranean ports, trading with North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In addition, high-speed trains could transport passengers, linking Spainu2019s Mediterranean tourist centres, such as Barcelona, Valencia, Alacant or Málaga with France, Switzerland, Italy or Germany.
Brian Simpson, the Chairman of the European Parliamentu2019s Transport Committee, stated that building the Mediterranean Railway Corridor is u201Cabsolutely imperativeu201D and u201Ccrucialu201D for the European economy. Simpson said that the two railway corridors going along Spainu2019s Mediterranean coast (linking Montpellier to Barcelona, Valencia and Algeciras) and Spainu2019s Atlantic coast (passing through the Basque Country, linking Bordeaux to Bilbao and Santander) should be included among the European Transport Priorities, which would receive EU funds paying for part of its construction costs. On the contrary, Simpson insisted that the so-called Central corridor is not u201Cviable and neededu201D. However, some days ago the Spanish and the French transport ministers signed a joint declaration stating their will to build the Central Corridor, but they did not indicate any timeline. A year ago, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reviewed the project and said it would not be built as it was too expensive.
The Transport Committeeu2019s Chairman is against the Central Corridor and supports only the Mediterranean and the Atlantic ones
The Chairman of the EPu2019s Transport Committee is also against building the Central Corridor. u201CI know it is very controversial, but I am not convinced about the need for a third railway corridor: if France and Spain want to pay for it, they can do it. However if you ask me if it is viable, honestly my answer is that I doubt itu201D, Simpson admitted to the Catalan News Agency in his office at the European Parliament. u201CTwo corridors, for freight and passengers, is the maximumu201D, the British MEP said, supporting the construction of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic corridors, but not the Central one.
In order to receive EU funds, the Member State governments have to engage in paying for most of the construction costs and building the infrastructure in a given timeline. The Spanish Government guaranteed the money for the Mediterranean Corridor, and actually some small parts of it have already been built. However, the freight lines of the Central Corridor have not been built and neither have the expensive parts in the Central Pyrenees for passengers and freight.
u201CYou donu2019t have to be a genius to understand that, if the French TGV railway ends near Perpignan and the Spanish TGV tracks already reach Barcelona, the most beneficial would be to connect themu201D, Simpson argued. The Transport Committeeu2019s Chairman added that the Mediterranean Corridor must be for passengers and freight, u201Clinking the Spanish portsu201D with u201Cthe rest of Europeu201D, including the industrial u201CNorth-West of England through the Channel tunnelu201D. Simpson criticised the attempts u201Cto politiciseu201D railway infrastructure without taking into account the needs of regions and Spain as a whole. He stressed that u201Chigh-speed trains are not cheapu201D and told the Spanish Government that there is no need to cover the whole of Spain with those train lines. The need is u201Cto connect the main citiesu201D and u201Clink them with Portugal and Franceu201D. He criticised some high-speed lines already built in Spain linking small cities and having very few passengers per day.
Simpson also sees an opportunity with the construction of the Mediterranean and Atlantic corridors to solve u201Cthe messu201D regarding u201Cthe difference between the European-width standardu201D and the Iberian one, since the corridors for freight and passengers would be built in the international-width standard. The infrastructure would thus enable trains going non-stop from Northern Europe to Spanish ports.
The Mediterranean Railway Corridor
The Mediterranean Railway Corridor would transport freight but also passengers through a High Speed Train network. It would connect all of Spainu2019s Mediterranean coastal resorts and cities, which are one of the worldu2019s main tourist destinations, with Central Europe and important airports and cruise ports.
This infrastrucural project would link by international-width standard rail Spainu2019s main ports in Barcelona, Tarragona, Valencia, Cartagena, Almería, Málaga and Algeciras, which are a gateway to North Africa, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, with Central and Northern Europe. In addition, the Mediterranean Corridor would connect most of Spainu2019s largest industrial areas, responsible for most of the country’s exports, with France and the rest of Europe.
Catalonia, the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands and Murcia are home to 40% of Spainu2019s population, 40% of its GDP, 50% of its agricultural production, 55% of the industrial production, almost 60% of land goods transportation, more than 65% of sea goods traffic, 60% of exports, and 60% of international tourists visiting Spain.