By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
PALMA City Council yesterday unveiled the definitive plan for the first phase of the proposed new tram link to the airport.
The final and alternative route will no longer run along the sea front, as initially proposed, but travel from the public transport station in the Plaza de España to the airport via a new bridge over the Llevant motorway and then follow the existing road to Can Pastilla and then on to the airport.

The plans for phase one are now on show at the public transport station for public scrutiny until December 31 and from now until then, any objections can be lodged with the council.

The Balearic Minister for the Environment and Transport, Bartomeu Vicens, said yesterday that the airport link will carry an estimated 14 million passengers a year.

During yesterday's presentation he explained that the first phase will be 10.5 kilometres long, have 18 stops and that the tram will run at a speed of between 18 and 22 kilometres per hour every 15 minutes.

The Balearic Environment Commission still has to present its viability and impact study of the project and, if favorable, planning permission will be sought in April of next year and the tram is not expected to begin running until 2014. Phase two will involve extending the tram along the Playa de Palma and the more ambitious third phase would take the tram in the opposite direction towards Calvia, possibly as far as Santa Ponsa.

However, the opposition Partido Popular has another idea should it win next year's local elections.
The President of the Palma branch of the PP, Jose Maria Rodriguez, said yesterday that a PP government would scrap the tram and make more use of the existing metro service instead. A PP government would study extending the metro line to the new Son Espases Hospital, the ParcBit technology park and even as far as Arenal. According to the PP, the city council has not been given the necessary financial guarantees by central government that it will help fund the 380 million euros it is going to cost building the first phase of the tram to the airport. What is more, the PP claim they were not even consulted by the Socialist-led city council or Balearic government about the tram project.

The PP accused the Mayor of Palma, Aina Calvo, of duping the general public over the tram, claiming that it will never be built because it lacks the necessary funding. What is more, the PP doubt that a tram would ease the city centre's traffic problems, in fact, they claim it will make matters worse and that the majority of shop owners and taxi drivers are against the tram.

PP Palma city councillor Carlos Veramendi accused the council and the government of “mortgaging the region” to fund the tram warning that the project will only spark the same kind of public uncertainty and worry as the Playa de Palma reformation project has over property expropriations.

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