Rodalies will take time to recover the usual service after the "organized vandalism" of cable theft

A copper cable theft has left Barcelona practically without Rodalies and medium-distance trains on the very day of the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 22:21
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Rodalies will take time to recover the usual service after the "organized vandalism" of cable theft

A copper cable theft has left Barcelona practically without Rodalies and medium-distance trains on the very day of the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia. At this time it is still unclear how long it will take for the service to return to normal. And everything indicates that it is going to be long. A good part of the political class did not want to miss the opportunity to denounce the daily sorrows suffered by so many users of this transport network so vital for daily mobility. The coincidences were so many that the suspicion that everything was the product of sabotage with political intentions hovered over the entire day. Sources close to the investigation assured that it is not a mere theft of material and is an act of “organized vandalism.”

The railway chaos experienced this 12-M, one of the most serious in recent years, is nothing more than an appetizer of the apocalypse that may occur these days on the Catalan capital and its metropolitan environment. After all, today is Sunday, and most of those affected have done nothing but frown and change their plans. Some complained that they would not be able to get to the place where they usually vote as planned. Shortly after the breakdown occurred, Renfe spokespersons already recommended that users look for other ways to get around, that they were not sure when the trains would run again as usual and that chartering a lot of coaches on a holiday was very complicated.

Officials from Barcelona City Council, Adif, Renfe, TMB, FGC and Trànsit plan to meet late this afternoon at the Territori headquarters to establish the measures to alleviate the situation starting tomorrow on the basis that Rodalies will continue with reduced service. Among the planned actions is chartering alternative buses and reinforcing the metro and Railways so that they can absorb passengers from Rodalies that connect at the transfer stations at the ends of the affected railway tunnels.

The copper theft in question was detected around four-thirty in the morning. Episodes of this nature are extremely frequent. For some time now the price of this material on the black market has done nothing but skyrocket. On the other hand, surveillance of these facilities is not among the high priorities of the security forces. Last year these crimes multiplied by up to six.

The Montcada Bifurcació station is a key piece of the Catalan railway scheme. Furthermore, the severity of the situation shows the serious deficits in the electrical infrastructure system. The last serious case occurred a year ago in Gavà when a catenary cable fell on the road and a fire broke out in signaling facilities. The R2 service was affected for three weeks. The fire was due to a missing piece and vandalism.

This Sunday's assault triggered a power surge that caused a fire next to Montcada Bifurcació that damaged the signaling, communications and security systems. The point switches, signals and other equipment were left unusable. Three electrical substations have been damaged, as sources familiar with what happened have explained to La Vanguardia. In addition, there were two more fires in Barcelona, ​​in the area near the Glòries junction and between El Clot and Sant Adrià, which flooded the city's undergrounds with dark smoke. It is being investigated whether these two incidents were also due to the surge originating in the Vallesan town.

The cluster of incidents that occurred early in the morning forced the tunnels of Adif's conventional network to be closed. The different railway services began the day reduced and with terminals in Badalona, ​​Cerdanyola, L'Hospitalet and Bellvitge (later they reached Sants). The R3 (Vic) was canceled and the R7 (Fabra i Puig-UAB) and the R8 (Martorell-Granollers) were replaced with bus services. The director of Rodalies, Antonio Carmona, explained that they tried to ensure that travelers could have interchange points with the metro. Only high speed remained operational.

The Government described what happened as “intolerable” and denounced that it could “affect” the right of Catalans to vote. In an appearance to report on the start of election day, Vice President Laura Vilagrà demanded that the Minister of Transport, Óscar Puente, “restore” normality “as soon as possible” and apologize to citizens.

Ministerial sources responded that everything points to an “intentional action” that sought to cause serious damage to the railway network. The point where the theft occurred, they recalled, “is located about 300 meters from the Montcada Bifurcació station and, from there, the wiring ends at an interlocking; “It is a key railway junction in the north of Barcelona, ​​with a high number of tracks, many point changes and signals and with an Adif maintenance center and a Renfe workshop.”

The incident, the same Transport sources insisted, "happened at a point that is not easily accessible, in a pass under the highway, surrounded by reeds and which has to be climbed up an embankment." This would support the hypothesis that it was not just another cable theft - in this case the amount stolen was small, just 40 meters - but rather that an attempt was made to cause serious damage to the railway service on such an important day. The ministry insisted that, to a greater or lesser extent, and although it is "waiting for the conclusions of the police investigation, everything indicates that this is an intentional action."

The earliest travelers found the gates of the El Clot station closed. People were not sure what they could do, what alternatives they had, if perhaps in a while the trains would pass again. At town stops people were looking for answers on their cell phones. The confusion was beginning to spread. At the Plaza Catalunya station they sealed the turnstiles. In Sants, a few conductors stood in front of the steps to tell everyone that there were no trains. “No, none, there are no trains and we don't know when there will be!”, the employees replied in response to the continuous questions from the travelers crowded on the other side of the access turnstiles.

Because after eleven in the morning some convoys began to leave Sants towards the south. “One to Reus, one to Reus!”, an employee suddenly shouted, while another opened one of the turnstiles and a lot of people appeared at full speed. "Go Go! –the employee urged–. “To Reus, to Sant Vicenç de Calders, to…!” Most of the information screens did not provide any information, and those that did only reflected the word delayt. “Sorry, and when is Granollers…?” “There is nothing in Granollers for now.” “I vote in Granollers.” “Well, I still can't tell you when the trains to Granollers will run again,” the worker concluded.

The majority assumed the situation with more resignation than indignation. Some trains approached Barcelona from the south and north, but they all ended their journey in Bellvitge and Badalona. The truth is that the mood of the citizens was not dominated by what was happening, but by what will happen tomorrow, a working day.