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By Humphrey Carter

PHOTOS: J. MOREY
PALMA is currently holding the second European Tram Convention and yesterday, one of Europe's leading experts gave his full backing to the Palma tram project.

Klaus Dietrick Matschke, who has been the director of the Berlin tram service for the past six years and has over 30 years experience in the railway industry, said that the tram would greatly enhance and improve Palma in the future.

The Berlin tram service carries 175 million passengers per year along 22 routes in its 400 carriages and Matschke said that a tram link from the centre of Palma to the airport would be highly profitable and used by both residents and tourists.

REDUCE CARBON FOOTPRINT “It would also ease the pressure on existing public transport, reduce the density of traffic and the city's carbon footprint and also revive the suburbs through which it will travel. “And, once the tram is extended along the Playa de Palma and into Calvia, as planned, the tram would be a huge benefit for the island,” he added.
At the two-day convention which is being held at the Sa Nostra Cultural Centre, Matschke was also keen to underline the extremely high safety record of trams across Europe and also the fact that not only are they very eco-friendly, they are also much cheaper to run than diesel powered rail services. “Under the current economic crisis and with oil prices being pushed up by continuing unrest in the Middle East, trams are the most sustainable alternative modes of transport, “ he said.

Palma City Council and the Balearic government are both determined to push ahead with the project, which is on show at the rail, metro and bus station in the Plaza España, but there is a small matter of local elections to get through in May first.

PROJECT IN DOUBT
After initial complaints from some traders and business on the Avenidas along which it will tun towards the coast near El Molinar, the route was modified and the latest public polls indicate that the majority of the public are in favour of the tram.

But, the opposition Partido Popular has made it clear that, should it win the local elections, as part of its austerity measures the multi-million euro tram project will be scrapped and more use made of the metro which the former PP government built.

The first phase of the project, if it goes ahead as planned with work starting next year if the Socialist-led government clings to power, is going to cost around 300 million euros but it will eventually serve to greatly open up the island to public transport with the railway being extended to the north east and east of the island.

In the not too distant future for example, residents and tourists in Alcudia, for example, could be able to get to and from the airport by rail.
This will spark objection from the hire car, taxi and coach sectors, but it is the public transport road map the Socialist-led government intends to follow.