At mid-day yesterday, Majorca's public transport system entered a whole new era when the Balearic Chief Minister Francesc Antich, accompanied by his deputy, Minister for Commerce Pere Sampol and the President of the Insular Council of Majorca, Maria Antonia Munar, declared the new railway service between Inca and Sa Pobla officially open before a large crowd of people in Inca. Antich travelled to Inca by train from Palma, where the special service pulled out of the Plaza d'España station at 11am and after declaring the stretch of track open, leapt aboard the first train of the new millennium to Sa Pobla. Antich said that the new service is a vital part of the government's public transport plan which has been designed to reduce traffic on the roads and install a greater level of public confidence in the public transport system. But Antich announced yesterday that the future of the train does not come to a halt in Sa Pobla. The Chief Minister said that next year, work will start on extending the line to Alcudia and that simultaneously, impact studies will be launched on the projects to lay a line from the centre of Palma to the University, link the airport to the capital by rail and that a railway service to Manacor will be opened in the year 2003. Albeit rare that both Antich and Munar share the limelight, the President of the Insular Council of Majorca expressed her satisfaction with the new line and praised the manner in which the track has been put down without having used up unnecessary amounts of land. With the speeches over, the inaugural Sa Pobla train reached its final destination at 1pm where, despite the rain, hundreds of locals and the municipal band turned out to welcome the train which also heralded a new life line for the rural town. Getting the train as far as Sa Pobla has cost the Balearic government 2'100 million pesetas and many people still cannot understand why the original service, which was opened in 1878, was ever closed. Work on restoring the railway service commenced in February 1999 and just under two years later, is complete. Over the past two years, the old track was pulled up and replaced, platforms repaired, level crossings, 47 in total, installed and Sa Pobla station renovated. The Inca-Sa Pobla service also serves Llubi and Muro - the only two stops along the track - and stations in both towns have been reformed with all the necessary public services and facilities installed. The Mayor of Inca, Pere Rotger, said yesterday that the new line will enable Inca to maintain its healthy rhythm of economic growth while opening the doors for a new era in the history of Sa Pobla. The railway is a symbol of progression and it will enable people to sample our culture, commerce and gastronomy, the Mayor of Sa Pobla, Jaume Font said. The line will officially come into full operation on January 6 as the ultimate Three Kings present for the population of Sa Pobla.
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