The meeting that the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, held last day 7 with representatives of the Catalan businessmen in Barcelona it left a good taste in the mouth among the latter. During the meeting, he was transferred by the chief executive of the proposal launched at the end of last year by the Catalan employers, Treball Foment, that both the Generalitat of Catalonia and the Catalan local administrations participate more in infrastructure management that are in this community but are state-owned, such as ports, airports or the Cercanías (Rodalies) train service. A proposition that, according to businessmen, the chief executive was receptive to study, thus leaving open a door for the regional government to have more weight in decisions on strategic infrastructure such as the Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat airport.
In his proposal, Foment del Treball ensures that “economic logic” and “efficiency” means that these facilities must be managed “from the territory individually.” In the case of the airport of El Prat, one of the great aspirations of the Catalan nationalists, what Foment has proposed is that the agreement of the Council of Ministers of November 11, 2011, which established the creation of a Governing Council with the Autonomous Government so that the Generalitat has more weight in the decisions taken on the installation. Its objective is that the infrastructure can provide more autonomy to set rates or achieve individualized contracts. A management independence that they also claim for the Girona, Reus and Sabadell airfields. So far, both the owner of the airports, Aena, and the government of the day have defended that the strength of the Spanish airport model is that it works as a network system in which all parts are connected and have shown little receptive to the idea of granting a lot of autonomy to the airports that integrate it. The Generalitat, Nevertheless, always accuses Madrid of prioritizing investments in Madrid-Barajas in his plans and ensures that his management would be more effective, bringing up the protests that, in recent summers, have brought chaos to the Catalan airport. El Prat is a key infrastructure for Catalonia. Next to the Port of Barcelona, and counting the direct and indirect effects, it represents 12% of Catalan GDP. Sanchez, in his “Agenda for the reunion”, reminded the Catalan Executive that Aena has projected an investment of 1,500 million euros in the new airport city of Barcelona and that the master plans of the Catalan airports will be updated.
Rodalies, the perfect starting point
Rodalies, the commuter train service of Catalonia, is also one of the desires of the regional Executive. At present, the agreement signed by the Ministry of Transportation and the Generalitat establishes the transfer of competences related to the planning of schedules, customer service, rates and management and general supervision of the service. Regarding rolling stock and infrastructure, the competences continue to belong to Renfe and Adifrespectively. Foment ensures that the service has received an investment “much lower than the needs detected in the successive Cercanías plans”. Last week, the Minister of the Catalan Territory, Damía Calvet, warned that he will not take a step to extend the exploitation of the Rodalies service to Renfe until the Government does not “complete” the transfer from the economic point of view after remembering that it does Ten years committed an investment of 4,000 million euros. From Renfe, its president, Isabías Táboas, has assured that there is a real possibility to renew the framework contract for the provision of Rodalies service. However, it considers that before it is necessary for the operator to receive 270 million euros from the tariff deficit from the Ministry of Transportation, the difference between what Renfe collects for providing this public service and what it enters for the tickets paid by passengers.
In Catalonia they consider that Rodalies would constitute the perfect infrastructure to start this co-management given its magnitudes of use and its problems. The Catalan Neighborhoods are key to the mobility of the community, because They are used daily by 410,000 travelers, although Renfe works on a plan to increase that amount to 600,000. But, according to the businessmen and the Catalan Government, the lack of investment causes numerous incidents and irregularity in the daily service that a shared management would help correct.
Foment believes that the fact that the rail network is of general interest is not an obstacle to reaching collaboration agreements, since ownership should not be transferred. The Catalan employer also reminds that the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia establishes that the Generalitat will be entitled «to participate in the planning and management of state-owned infrastructures located in Catalonia», which should also include civil society in Its management bodies.