The local government has certainly been bitten by the train bug. Just weeks after the opening of the extension to Sa Pobla on the existing Palma-to-Inca line, the government announced yesterday that Manacor would join the network by 2003. A train journey from Manacor to Palma will take 55 minutes, the minister for Public Works and Transport Antonio Ferrer announced yesterday. The local government will be investing more than 20 million pounds sterling in the project, the most ambitious undertaken so far. There will be new stations at Sineu, Sant Joan and Petra. Work on up-grading the Manacor station will start over the next 30 days. The next step is for the Council of Majorca to approve the new railway plan and then the railway company will enter negotiations will land-owners who will be affected by the laying of new stretches of track. It is estimated that 600 landowners will be involved. Ferrer said yesterday that this plan was all part of their drive to encourage more people to use the train. The minister underlined the fact that the European Union had recently named the train as the ideal form of transport because of its limited affect on the environment and low cost. Presently on the drawing board is a plan to also take the train as far as Alcudia. The minister was quick to point out that at the moment the train service was not profitable and every year it receives a 600 million peseta subsidy from the local government. But he underlined the fact that a better railway had sound and solid benefits for the local community. The local government have rejected more motorways in favour of an improved rail network. It is a major gamble because the Balearics still has the largest fleet of vehicles per capita of any province in the European Union. We have seen that our roads are claiming a growing death toll. The train is much safer and this safety aspect cannot be measured in purely financial terms, he said. The local government also announced yesterday that they would be doubling the size of the service's rolling stock, offering comfortable carriages and modern trains. But their love affair with the train does not finish there. Presently, on the drawing board there are plans to transform Manacor into a rail hub and the government is not ruling out extending the service to Arta and Cala Ratjada. However, it is not all bright for the Balearic government and their rail dream.