Obsolete roads and electrification, sinuous paths, stretches with limited speed at 30 kilometers per hour and terminals that are not well communicated. This is how railroad network through which goods circulate in the northwest of Spain, a burden for the economic development of an area that has seven major ports and contributes 12% of the state GDP and that has led to autonomous governments, employers and unions in Galicia, Asturias and Castilla y León to form a common front. The alliance created to promote what is known as the Northwest Atlantic Corridor and attract European funds has held a summit in Santiago on Monday in which they have estimated in 3.1 billion euros the necessary investments for the network "designed in the nineteenth century to enter the XXI century".
The aim is for the European Union to definitively include the freight connections of north-western Spain as an extension of the Atlantic Corridor, the axis linking Lisbon and Algeciras with the rest of Europe passing through Madrid and which, next to the Mediterranean Corridor that travels east of Spain, are the two arms of the Trans-European Transport Networks that cross Spain. This measure would convert the railway network of the Atlantic corner of the Peninsula into a priority investment objective and would finance its modernization with European funds from the Connect Europe millionaire program.
The Galician president, Alberto Núñez Feijóo (PP), and his counterparts from Castilla y León and Asturias, Juan Vicente Herrera (PP) and Javier Fernández (PSOE), have participated in the day held at the Cidade da Cultura de Santiago to give him packing politician. The three have called on the Government of Pedro Sanchez to defend before Brussels the improvement of these infrastructures to, among other things, mitigate the "imbalance" with respect to the Mediterranean strip.
Herrera has defended that the Northwest Atlantic Corridor is a "key piece for the vertebration and territorial cohesion of Spain" and, to alleviate the problems of depopulation suffered by the three affected communities, which account for almost 25% of Spanish territory but only 13 % of its population, has claimed that "the logistical infrastructures are part of the demographic strategy" of the State. Feijóo has influenced that "only with a reliable and competitive rail network" it can be sold in Europe and create employment and has argued that "up to 50% of the price of a product can be determined by the price of transport". "It will help a more balanced and better Spain", Fernandez proclaimed.
The poor state of the rail network causes that currently, according to data provided at the meeting on Monday, only 1% of freight traffic in Galicia, Asturias and Castilla y León is made by train, compared to 83% using the road maritime and 16% that goes by road. As "real and effective investments" to make the Northwest Atlantic Corridor a reality, the governments and social agents of these three communities demand that the electrification of the roads be completed and modernized, the layout adjusted, the gauges extended, the double via and improve intermodal terminals and traffic management. Feijóo has also requested that the connection with the Portuguese city of Oporto be included.
Both the European Commission and the European Parliament have approved the extension of the Atlantic Corridor to the northwest of Spain, but the final approval of the European Council is missing. Then it will be time to decide which concrete projects are financed between 2021 and 2027 with the 30,600 million euros of the Connect Europe program, the battle for which the regional front is being prepared, driven by Galicia, Asturias and Castilla y León. "There are many things that the PP did not do in seven years of government in Madrid and Feijóo is late, bad and drag to worry about an issue that is fundamental for the country," criticized the leader of the Galician PSOE, Gonzalo Caballero, who has downgraded the importance of the alliance because both Herrera and Fernandez will not be presented in May for re-election.