The tram has been around for 20 years with the Diagonal junction on the horizon

These days, the operators are making the final touches to the Trambesòs extension works from Glòries to Verdaguer.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
03 April 2024 Wednesday 11:15
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The tram has been around for 20 years with the Diagonal junction on the horizon

These days, the operators are making the final touches to the Trambesòs extension works from Glòries to Verdaguer. The tracks have already been installed and the innovative catenary-free power system is now being prepared, which avoids overhead wiring for the nearly two kilometers that the service will extend. If nothing goes wrong in the coming months, travelers will be able to board the tram in this area from September, according to the internal calendar that all the parties involved work with, despite the fact that the date is starting to tighten and compromises the test and departure deadlines blank essentials before the premiere. The Autoritat del Transport Metropolitana (ATM), in order to heal itself, is talking about the entry into service throughout the second semester.

The guarantees that the new section must be tested correctly and without haste establish a temporal connection with twenty years ago. On April 3, 2004, the Trambaix was opened, an inauguration that was preceded by an intense controversy due to the twenty accidents that had occurred in the avenues of Baix Llobregat during the weeks the trams were still without passengers . The opposition demanded more testing time. The political discussions of that time, with notable absences at the inaugural event, are once again connected to the present, with the union of Trambaix and Trambesòs along the Diagonal turned into one of the great debates of recent years in the Catalan capital. There will be no public event commemorating twenty years of the modern tramway, but if there were, a few current political leaders would also be missing.

This would not be the case with the technicians, who have been relegated to the background despite the huge amount of documentation they have prepared in recent years to defend the connection of the tram along the Diagonal, a straight line on the map that is also defended by the concessionary company that operates the service "A thousand different routes have been studied, the most suitable route is the Diagonal and what is needed is a tram to transport up to 6,000 people per hour in each direction", defends Humberto López Vilalta, general director of Tram, urging to look the public transport map beyond the avenue itself to understand the importance of the union of the two networks. The first phase will allow Trambesòs users to exchange with metro lines 4 and 5 in Verdaguer and the connection to Francesc Macià will allow it to be combined with lines 3 and 5 in Diagonal, with Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat (FGC) in Provence and the future L8 in Francesc Macià. "It's intermodality that gives meaning to everything!" exclaims López Vilalta.

However, the second phase up to Francesc Macià is still pending and without a scheduled date. The government of Ada Colau intended to overlap the works and begin to tackle the most delicate part of the Diagonal so that the works that are about to be finished are completed. The truth is that today the executive project has not even been finished, which would have put the communes in serious difficulty. Instead, it allows Collboni to gain time. The document is expected to be ready in July. Then the works will have to be put out to public tender, procedures on which the socialist government does not dare to put a date.

Be that as it may, before that it will be necessary to face the tests of the first phase, which will not be simple due to the technical complexity represented by the tram's underground power supply. For several weeks it will be necessary to test issues such as the gauge, signalling, energy capture... Then it will be time for the blank run, which represents a simulation of the planned commercial service, but without passengers.

All this will be a step forward in the history of the modern tramway in Barcelona, ​​which turns twenty years old, during which positions have remained poisoned between defenders and detractors in the Catalan capital. The same is not the case in the municipalities of Baix Llobregat, where the tram brought significant urban improvements and a new public transport connection. In l'Hospitalet, Esplugues, Cornellà, Sant Joan Despí and Sant Feliu de Llobregat, unanimity prevails, which has been carried forward in recent years through motions calling for the union with Trambesòs for Diagonal.

Users, for their part, are clearly satisfied with this means of transport, which gets the highest score in the satisfaction surveys that are carried out annually, ahead of the metro, Rodalies, the FGC or urban and interurban buses . "It has been shown that it is a good means of transport, that the public-private collaboration model works and that the demand estimates were correct", defends López Vilalta, taking stock of a formula without parion for Catalan public transport with public subsidies to tickets and private investment in exploitation. Infrastructure concessions management company Globalvia, train manufacturer Alstom and transport company Moventia are the main private shareholders involved in the tram.

FGC and TMB are also minority shareholders and both look forward to 2032, when the concession will end and ATM will have to decide which operator will take over management. Discarded the option of bailing out the Barcelona City Council, coinciding with the union of the two networks due to the high economic cost it would entail, all the parties involved are aware that it will be one of the two public operators that will take over in 2032. Which will be the chosen one? It will depend on the politicians who make the decision when the time comes.