Tarragona presses to save the coast from the collapse of cargo trains

Tarragona has been demanding for years the diversion of freight trains inland, outside population centers and tourist areas.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
19 November 2023 Sunday 10:29
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Tarragona presses to save the coast from the collapse of cargo trains

Tarragona has been demanding for years the diversion of freight trains inland, outside population centers and tourist areas. A part with dangerous goods, which circulates day and night along the Costa Dorada. Freight trains share the tracks with passenger trains. A more transcendent demand than ever for the European Union's commitment to the railway and rail highways as an alternative to the truck, with the commitment of the Central Government to double the rail transport of goods during the next decade: it is now below 5%

After years of meetings, the Interior Goods Platform has achieved an almost total political, economic and social consensus in the Tarragona area for an alternative route to remove cargo trains from the coast.

The territory is putting more pressure than ever on the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, which has had a feasibility study on the table for months to find the best layout for the interior. The three solutions surveyed by Madrid so far are not to the liking of the Plataforma, which is betting on its own layout (see infographic) that does not harm the inhabited centers of Reus or Valls either.

The calendar works against Tarragona. The increase in rail freight traffic poses a real threat of collapse in the short and medium term for a line where many passenger trains, especially regional ones, connect the metropolitan area of ​​Tarragona, the second largest in Catalonia by dimension, with that of Barcelona.

"The traffic of goods will increase by 250% in the coming years, the road will collapse. They will pass along the same line of the coast, through Vila-seca, Tarragona, Altafulla or Torredembarra, through the third thread. Regional and suburban trains run there, Iberian-wide goods from the central line and the coastal line, from Castelló”, warns Eugeni Sedano, spokesperson for the citizen platform.

In the section between Tarragona and Sant Vicenç de Calders there could be enormous saturation in just five years, some experts predict, and it would become a railway black spot.

The freight line of the Mediterranean corridor will provisionally use the so-called third thread, an emergency solution still under construction and unfinished, promoted by the Spanish Government on the already existing railway line to be able to circulate trains with international width towards europe

If the route through the interior goes on forever, which the Platform proposes in parallel with expressways such as the C-14 or the AP-7, the large municipalities of the Costa Daurada fear that more and more freight trains and longer ones run near Tarragona, Altafulla or Torredembarra.

The passage of dangerous goods trains along the coastline is a notable nuisance, as well as an avoidable risk, for residents of neighborhoods such as Serrallo or customers of campsites on the Tarragona coast, close to the tracks. It is also an obstacle for new urban plans and infrastructures projected on the Costa Daurada. The obligation to respect the safety strips, of 800 meters with respect to the roads, under the tutelage of Civil Protection, means a delay in case of new works. Those that are already there, whether floors or equipment, cannot be moved. Freight trains, yes.

"The transport of goods along the coast is a problem and conditions us as a territory", highlights Àngel Xifré, delegate of the Generalitat in Tarragona. "And there is a risk of railway collapse, it is necessary to look for an alternative in the interior", he agrees.

The ministry is promoting one of the railway highways between Zaragoza, Lleida and Tarragona, with the tender announced at the beginning of 2024. It is the one with the most demand in the railway network, with one hundred weekly circulations in each direction, with future connections from Algeciras, Huelva or Vitoria

Meanwhile, Spanish businessmen continue to press for the Mediterranean corridor to be completed as soon as possible to France. More freight and passenger trains along a coastal line threatened with collapse.

Aware that the route through the interior is up in the air and that it could take a decade to complete, the Port of Tarragona tells this newspaper that they will already study an alternative "to prevent cargo trains from passing in front of the city ​​and the Serrallo neighborhood", as is happening now.

"The future is in railway motorways, but Adif is doing it on obsolete roads and with detriment to residents and passengers. What will happen to commuters if they also want to increase the frequency?" alert Sedano. For the Platform "it is a matter of political will"; they estimate that the investment would be 10 million for each of the 40 kilometers of new route that "would finally remove the goods from all the towns".