THE Balearic government has shelved plans to put the railway lines which run through Palma underground, at least for the short term.
This was one of the projects which the preceding coalition government had made a priority and it had been planning to start work on the project this legislature, if it had been returned to office. But yesterday, Rafael Pons, the managing director of the SFM, the Majorcan Railway Company, confirmed that the operation would not be carried out during this legislature. It has not been ruled out altogether, but for the time being it is not a priority, Pons said.
He went on to explain that the priority for the new team at the head of the railway company is safety and quality of service in the lines of Inca, Sa Pobla and Manacor. Any investment is a good thing. Putting the lines underground is an improvement in aesthetics and comfort, but would not affect safety, Pons added.
Pons also said that the company's efforts over the next four years would be centred on getting rid of the level crossings at a cost of more than 50 million euros. Fifty-nine level crossings will be removed, including those in Palma's Calle Balmés, which have been blamed for causing traffic jams.
But Pons said that it was a complicated operation.
He explained that it can take up to a year to draw up plans for removing a level crossing and building a bridge to replace a crossing can cost up to 1.5 million euros. The company has already started removing the provisional level crossing which the previous government built in Petra.
In the meantime, railway workers are putting the final touches to the replacement units for the train which crashed into a concrete wall in Sa Pobla in February 2002. One engine was completely destroyed and a new one was purchased, while one of the coaches has been repaired.
They are due to enter into service within a fortnight and should help improve the service, which has attracted complaints because of delays.
The cost has been more than 1.4 million euros.
Public works and transport minister Mabel Cabrer admitted that the service was experiencing difficulties due chiefly to a shortage of rolling stock, but this should be remedied within 12 to 18 months, with the arrival of new units, she said yesterday.
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