Extremadura is not the only community that suffers from the lack of investment in railway infrastructures and that supports communication problems due to poor train service. Lines such as the one between Madrid and Soria or the one that connects A Coruña and Ferrol, second and sixth Galician cities, are a good example. The journeys, few, are long and heavy due to the state of the tracks and the trains travel almost empty because people choose other means of transport that are even cheaper. EL PAÍS has made two journeys in these two lines.
Soria, dead way
In Soria station there is a train, and it is the only one there, that spends all day there. He is the one who arrives from Madrid at 10.40, who already stays in that dead way until seven in the afternoon, for the only return trip. There are only these two schedules to come and go from the capital, and two others in the opposite direction. Trains are no longer seen in Soria, although for many years there were so many that the station has twelve tracks. Here Dr. Zhivago filmed and gave the shot as a Russian station. Now almost more, ramshackle and lonely. So few trains pass that Miguel, a child, has asked his mother to go to the station to see one. It was Wednesday, January 15, and on the train at 7:06, eight people went up. None arrived in Madrid, except the journalist and the photographer. They went down in Guadalajara, Alcalá and some town. Among those who alighted and those who rode were never more than eleven passengers, in a train of 182 seats. It took three hours to Chamartín. It costs 22.90 euros. The ALSA bus comes and goes several times a day, takes half an hour less and costs 16.50.
That morning, on the midday bus of the Madrid-Soria-Logroño line there were 19 passengers, with a general paradoxical comment: "I like the train more …". And they continue: "… but the bus is better. You arrive earlier, cheaper, you can choose the time because you have several a day, you can watch a movie, they give you nuts and water. " Says, for example, Nekane Sicilia, who stopped taking the train to Logroño five years ago, when they raised the price. In addition, you have to go by AVE to Zaragoza and transfer. The bus seems like a good business, there are nine daily trips. On the weekend they put up to four and five cars per shift.
The Soria station already works best as a bar. People go more to the station bar than to the station. With a view to the melancholic landscape of the tracks, they have made it beautiful, it makes concerts. Where there are more people is in a black and white photo of the waiting room, the day it was inaugurated. Soria is all excited by the arrival of progress. Now the station manager, Carlos Arribas, has very little to do all day. Account that arrived in 1996 and already they warned to him that surely it would be closed. And the already came from three Castilian lines that had been closing. It indicates a dilapidated building, where before the sheep were loaded and unloaded. "There was a lot of movement here," he recalls. Around here he went to Zaragoza, to Logroño, to Pamplona. Now to nowhere. And there is not a bus to get close in an hour to Calatayud to catch the AVE. By Soria also passed one of the most delirious railway projects in Spanish history, the union of Santander with Valencia: 35 years of work, 650 kilometers that never came to open.
"The problem is that people do not even think about taking the train, it's normal to speak badly about it. We do not ask for an AVE, only a decent train with Madrid, and another with Zaragoza"Says Jesús Rivera, president of the Soriana Association of Friends of the Railroad (ASOAF), a group of fans that since 2002 denounces the deficiencies of the train. He explains that in the most fateful 94 kilometers from Soria to Torralba, where the train is at most 70 kilometers per hour and giving boats, only 50 kilometers have been remodeled in ten years. "And with what it costs a kilometer of AVE you remodel the whole line," he protests.
Carlos Vallejo and Fernando Arévalo, from the Soria platform ¡Ya! They list 30 unfulfilled promises of politicians in recent years: highways, reform of the hospital, the old jail building, the abandoned Bank of Spain … Walking around the city you see banners on the balconies: "Soria wants future". There are giant gigs of the day of the innocent, which is how they feel treated. "We are few, the 88,600 inhabitants of the entire province fit in the Camp Nou." On the other hand, they do not fill the train. Only those who have no other option go. As a traveler, Palmira Borque, who settles in Alcalá: "Many times I go alone in the car, and sometimes it's cold, it starts to warm up when you get to Madrid, although lately it's better". The stations are also demolished: in Almazán they have just removed the ticket office. There is only one machine. There are empty, ghostly stations that emerge in the darkness, barely illuminated by two streetlamps. For not having, there is no mobile coverage.
"This is a Mercedes on a village road," laments the reviewer. Account that the train is very good, the problem is the way. Ancient rails of almost a century. Give boats because the joints are every 12 or 18 meters, and the sleepers are made of wood. And he believes that it is not to put the cry in the sky in every delay, as do the Friends of the Railroad (they point out 30 delays of more than 15 minutes in 2018). Renfe and the Ministry of Public Works does not provide data on delays and incidents. Is it so difficult for the train to take at least the same time as the bus and have several schedules? Apparently yes. Javier Izquierdo, Secretary General of Infrastructure of the Ministry of Development, explains that is due "to many years of disinvestment". "The frequency is conditioned by the park there is. It's been years since trains were bought. The last conventional ones were bought in 2008, and they were received in 2011. In these years there has not been a sad line tender. We want to change that, but it will not be overnight. " In the budgets Soria expected 20 million euros for the renewal of the line, and in the end have been only 800,000. Izquierdo points out that there is already a contract to renew sleepers and eliminate temporary speed limitations. It is true, that is why there are now works on the bridge over the Izana river and the service is interrupted between Soria and Almazán from January 21 to February 5. You have to do that piece by bus. I mean, right now, no train arrives in Soria, not even the last one.
A Coruña-Ferrol, the train taken from a Mortadelo
At two thirty in the afternoon of a rainy Wednesday, a train bellows at idle on track 1 of the A Coruña station. There are four cars, more than 150 seats, but there are only five passengers. In the first car a young girl with headphones looks out the window. In the second, a man with a white beard. In the tail there are three more passengers – a man and two girls – who talk quietly.
The distance between both locations is 48 kilometers. By car, on the highway, it takes only 30 minutes. By bus, 45. If you take this train, one hour and 18 minutes.
"That does come," says Antía Leira, 28, a Ferrol resident and social worker in Betanzos. Pedro, a civil servant in A Coruña and a resident of Ferrol, adds: "Recently I saw that he did not go out, I went down to ask and a guy told me that it did not work. Nobody had come to warn me. "
That is why, among other things, the train is always almost empty. "It's completely abandoned," says Maria Carneiro, the girl who looked out the window. The average daily commuter of this trip is 167 people. This means that 85% of the places are empty. "Those of us who take it all know each other," says Pedro. There is another veteran passenger, already in Ferrol, who, years ago, the machinist, stopped at the request of the travelers. House for house.
Currently, during the tour, the train stops 15 times. "If it stops". Antía, who takes it in Betanzos, returns to apostille. "Sometimes you skip stops. Or for, but the doors do not work and do not open. So it starts again and you pass. And since half of the time there is no reviewer, you can not do anything. " Lucia replies: "Yes, you can. I, if they do not open me, pull the emergency brake. I'm sick. " Pedro laughs, resigned. "It seems like a joke, it looks like a train taken from Mortadelo and Filemón". "One day we had to go down the engineer's cabin", says Antía.
Traveling by train from A Coruña to Ferrol is an adventure. So absurd that Coruñeses who study in Ferrol and vice versa have to look for a flat or residence to move. Despite being only 48 kilometers away. The alternatives are the bus or the private car. But the train is much cheaper. Six euros the ticket.
"To travel by train means saving about 400 euros per month, so I can not change it. What happens is that it is unpredictable. It can happen of everything. More than one day I have come to work at 12 in the morning, or I have stayed here for five hours. And several times we have been standing on a hill because the train could not climb, "says Pedro. Since September there are already 20 times that the train has not passed, leaving the passengers stranded.
"I suppose there are areas that will always be abandoned, which do not matter to anyone," says Pedro. In Galicia, the Xunta has already promised several investments to improve this line. But it does not seem that any of them will be effective. So, for now, Coruñeses and Ferrol will remain so close and at the same time, because of the train, so far away.