WORK on tunnelling the railway and building a huge underground central station in Palma is due to start in December.
The green light for the project was announced yesterday by the mayor of Palma, Catalina Cirer and the Balearic Minister for Public Works, Mabel Cabrer. The scheme is expected to take two years to complete at a cost of 89.6 million euros, 20 million euros more than initially expected, because the final scheme includes an underground car park below the station.
The project was yesterday posted for public approval and Palma residents have two months to submit any objections to the plan.
Cirer and Cabrer explained yesterday that 1.5 kilometres of railway lines from the Via Cintura into the new station are to be tunnelled underground and that all input from the public will be most appreciated and used to fine tune the final project.
The hugely ambitious plan has been drawn up to meet the transport needs of the city for the next 50 years.
The underground station will have a ten-track railway station, capable of handling 40 trains per hour, and a coach station with 30 terminals.
The architects have taken into full account the long term railway expansion project in Majorca, hence Palma's new central station will have the capacity to handle such a large number of trains every hour.
Two lifts and four escalators will link the station to the surface.
The council and Balearics government, the latter of which has agreed to cover the costs of the new 20 million euro car park, also intend to make the most of the building work to redesign the Parc de Ses Estaciones and increase the garden and park space.
An 18.000 square metre pedestrian walkway will also be built linking the central station to Son Costa park and the eventual park at Son Fuster.
Cirer added that, once the railway lines have been sunk underground, at least six city centre neighbourhoods, until now separated by the tracks, will be able to be brought closer together.
Palma City Council and the Balearic government have agreed a finance scheme for the project. Yesterday Cirer admitted that there is still a possibility that central government's Development Ministry will agree to provide funding.
But, she said that what ever the cost, the project is worth it, we're planning for the future of the city and its people, she stressed.
Initial work could start as early as September.
The Minister Cabrer said that traffic diversion may be in place come the end of September and work on dismantling the bridge behind the coach station will start as early as possible.
The director General of Public Works, Carlos Jover, said yesterday that he and his team have been working hard on a plan to make sure that the two-year construction project causes the least possible disruption to the day-to-day workings of the city.
The previous Pla Mirral Palma improvement plan, carried out under the former council, caused so much traffic chaos in the centre that thousands of residents complained about the noise, dirt and traffic congestion.
This time around, the city council plans to take every step possible to make sure as few residents as possible are effected.
Looking to the long term, the railway expansion plan will eventually involve passengers coming into Palma from as far away as Alcudia and students from the University. Also, the sea-front tram running from Arenal to Magalluf is still very much on the negotiating table.
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