Peaceful assault on the train to demand decent transport to Extremadura

In the space between cars, next to the service door, which does not close properly, surrounded by seven people, the PSOE deputy from Cáceres César Ramos, spokesman for the Congressional Transport Commission, tries to hold his own. "César, I believe that in life we ​​are here to improve things," Leonor Fernández, from Navalmoral de la Mata, tells him from the left. "[Lo vuestro son] apologies and stubbornness, you crush us", Montse Zorraquino, another neighbor, accuses from the right. The rest nod, murmur. The parliamentarian temporizes, smiles, it is possible that he sweats a little, but he does not give in: "The project is what it is and going to run".

The scene takes place when there is little more than an hour left to reach Madrid, on a train in which more than a hundred Extremadurans have been boarding since 7:25 a.m. – in Badajoz, Mérida, Cáceres, Monfragüe and Nalvamoral, the last station before arriving in Castilla-La Mancha– to protest the vast battery of grievances that the regional railway accumulates after decades of unfulfilled promises for the modernization of communications, which the latest partial improvements have not resolved.

The socialist Ramos endures the downpour, insists that the journey has cut down the times and defends that the PSOE rescued the line from the paralysis of the PP governments, but admits that with the inauguration of the so-called new train on July 18, the Government "perhaps" could have been wrong. In that act, the train made the journey between Plasencia and Badajoz, when the line, precisely, does not pass through Plasencia. The successive breakdowns and delays of the route, in which there are still sections of a single track and without electrification, have finished inflaming the users. The same Wednesday, one of the convoys accumulated an hour and a half of delay over the four and a half scheduled.

In Navalmoral there is a very powerful opposition to the new line project, which will mean erecting a wall that will exacerbate the cut of the railway in the town, of 17,000 inhabitants. The neighbors speak of "segregation", of an urban mortgage for two centuries and propose burial. The PSOE says that the cost would skyrocket, that there are technical impediments. There are reports of crossed experts who defend one thing and the opposite. "The solution is political," says José María González Mazón, spokesperson for the Civic Platform No to the Wall, who believes that PSOE or PP do not care about this issue, that the only solution is mobilization and protest.

Among the thirty groups that support the railway protest, grouped on the platform 'Extremadura for a train that shakes the territory and cools the planet', there are also those nostalgic for the Ruta de la Plata train and the lost connection with Salamanca. "If I lived in Asturias, where there are town trains, I could be self-employed," says Gregorio Cabrera, 60, 30 of them in Jaraíz de la Vera. "To go to Plasencia [a 35 kilómetros] I always depend on someone," laments the man, who is blind and shares the feeling of injustice: "In Extremadura we are like in the movie The Holy Innocents. Before the products of the field were taken; now the energy. There is no political will."

The discourse of the young entrepreneur in search of fortune also falters in the region, where being in your twenties and self-employed is an uphill battle. Solange Jarquín, 27, a spokesperson for the convening platform and the Red Autónomos association, says that the speeches for reducing emissions and against depopulation do not fit with the state of public transport. As the frequencies are scarce, she explains, "you can take the train to go to work, but you don't know if you will be able to take it to return".

September 8 is the day of Extremadura and regional colors abound on the train: green, white and black. Although the demonstrators take the brass band Sintonía de Navalmoral to liven up the journey, the inspectors ask for calm so as not to disturb travelers unrelated to the claims, and the tambourine remains silent. Discreetly accompanying the passage is the president of the Extremaduran PP, María Guardiola, who is traveling "individually". She is wearing a T-shirt with a picture from an episode of the cartoon series The Simpsons in which an investment in an urban monorail project ends in scam. She says that she joined the initiative because Extremadura is her land and that, if the government changes next year, she will continue to support the demands of the neighbors. "I sure do," she says.

More integrated with the procession, coming and going from one car to another, is the spokeswoman for United for Extremadura, Irene de Miguel, who officially supports the march. She considers the express inauguration of the line a "severe humiliation", and the deficiencies that the line continues to drag do not compensate for the improvements, she thinks. There is a lack of "affordable prices, useful frequencies" and electrification of the roads once and for all to say goodbye to diesel. "We cannot be a land of sacrifice," she insists. There are among the passengers who speculate about the emergence of a strong feeling from Extremadura as a result of what happened, but others are skeptical: "An Extremadura flag in Plasencia? I don't believe it," jokes one.

The convoy arrives at Atocha. Today is punctual. From the station to Congress there is a 20-minute walk, but the police stop the march because the visitors warned of the concentration, but not of a demonstration. Finally, they let them go. They move quickly, "more than the train", they make some people see, and when they arrive they find that access to the building is cut off 50 meters before. After a while, some deputies appear, mainly from Ciudadanos, including their leader, Inés Arrimadas, with words of support.

The mayor of Madrid passes briefly by the place. The presenter Isabel Gemio and the journalist Daniel Domínguez read the manifesto, which points out the parallels of the march with the 1979 protests against the frustrated Valdecaballeros nuclear power plant, highly contested in its day. José Francisco Gamonal, 67, who has come, although he is not a regular user of the train, because he understands that it is justice, summed up a certain feeling, less passionate, at the beginning of the trip: “So much breakdown is unfortunate. We are the laughingstock of Spain ". He believes that the desired train, the one that Extremadurans need, will take time to arrive. He resigns himself: "My grandchildren will know it".

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