Damián Uclés was appointed Delegate in Alicante of Ferrocarrils of the Generalitat Valenciana in 1987. Until his retirement in 2013, his main mission was to make possible the rescue of the Marina Railway, popularly known as the trenet, which for the administration and the opinion itself public seemed to have its days numbered. Yesterday Uclés received a tribute in the logistical heart of the company that was his home, the tram depots of El Campello, chaired by the president of the Generalitat, Carlos Mazón, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the first trip, on August 15, 2003, between the Puerta del Mar station, in Alicante, and El Campello.
Uclés recalled how the team of 129 people he was then in charge of faced the task of keeping alive a means of transportation that in the last years of the last century received ruthless criticism for its inefficiency and danger. “The train kills, the headlines said,” he recalled, alluding to the articles published after a series of fatal accidents on a line that had dangerous level crossings. “In less than three years we suppressed a hundred,” explained Uclés.
But its mission was not only to revive the old trenet, but to create from that infrastructure a modern combined train, tram-light metro network, destined to revolutionize public transport in Alicante and its metropolitan area, which last year transported 13.5 million travelers. "In three years, the change in society was noticed, with the reduction of accidents, the involvement of the City Councils, despite the fact that at the beginning the budget was scarce."
And Valencia was experiencing the expansion of its Metro and resources were limited. Uclés is very satisfied with the implementation of the so-called Tramnochador, a night service designed to keep young people off the road during summer nights, and thus reduce the accidents that were frequent.
In 2007 the TRAM, until then completely open-air, went underground into the center of Alicante, inaugurating the MARQ and Mercado stations, which connected the urban area with Playa de San Juan. In 2008 it was already possible to travel to Benidorm. It was not until 2010 when, also underground, the TRAM penetrated to the Plaza de Luceros, which today continues to be its terminus station, waiting for the construction of the one that should allow the fluid movement of travelers between the TRAM and the AVE trains. , Media Distancia and Cercanías, next to - or rather under - the railway station.
Yesterday, President Mazón promised to complete this project as soon as possible, although he assured that to undertake this work, ADIF - an organization dependent on the Ministry of Transportation - must grant the necessary permits to act on land that is its property.
The truth is that, either due to the budgetary imponderables of the economic crisis, or because the political will was not enough to overcome them, since line 2 was inaugurated in 2013, which connects Alicante with San Vicent del Raspeig and offers a great service to the users of the General Hospital and the students of the University of Alicante, the TRAM has barely grown.
Except when the Serra Grossa tunnel was inaugurated in 2018, which allows double-track circulation between the Sangueta and La Isleta stops, a bottleneck whose disappearance has allowed train traffic to increase and establish the new line 5, originating in Puerta del Mar. The modernization of the Marina train, line 9 that connects Benidorm and Dènia is, until the promised connections with Renfe, Mutxamel, Sant Joan and San Gabriel arrive, the last palpable milestone of the project.