Great - and pending - public transport construction works are rebooted
This has been a key week for metropolitan public transport. Four major projects and works that have been pending for many years have been rebooted, and it seems that, although there are reasons to remain sceptical after so many failed announcements, the forthcoming and long-awaited arrival of European funds as well as the increase of public spending could make them really come through this time.
The first announcement came on Wednesday, when the first trains began to run on the buried tracks of the future La Sagrera station. Despite the fact that they have not yet stopped, this is an important step towards improving the movement of the convoys with the goal, not yet officially defined, that in about five years time it will be fully operational. Line 9 will pass through this fundamental intermodal station, which has also been reactivated after the Catalan Government announced on Thursday a change in the financing model, which will now be charged to the budgets, and a new extension of the construction works until 2027. Friday was the day for RENFE's Rodalíes, with the Spanish government promising an investment of 6.3 billion over 10 years to install new tracks, improve old stations and build new ones, and buy new convoys. And finally, yesterday the municipal government of Barcelona announced an agreement with ERC that will enable the approval of the tramway connection on the Diagonal, which would mean that the works on the section between Plaça de les Glòries and Verdaguer will start next year.
Four major projects that will end many years of delays and that are basic, especially the first three, to ensure metropolitan mobility in public transport, which is the necessary objective to ensure ecological sustainability and also economic and social sustainability of the whole area. Without quality public transport, it is difficult for the goal of reducing the number of cars and the pollution they cause to be feasible. And, right now, it seems that, at least in Barcelona, the plan to reduce the number of private vehicles in the city centre is going faster than the public transport improvement that allows peripheral neighbourhoods or other towns to access the city.
The pandemic has further accelerated the process by which the city is gaining pedestrian and bicycle lane space. However, the pandemic has also translated in an increase in the use of private vehicles, because many citizens are afraid to take public transport. Until normality is reached, and until the planned construction works are completed, years of conflictive mobility are ahead of us. We will have to take this into account and avoid maximalist positions. Progress regarding the common sustainability goal is needed, but without further penalizing citizens.