There was no discussion about taking the line as far as the port. | T. AYUGA


In April 1936, an article appeared in The Railway Magazine. The article was about the railway in Mallorca - the railway as it was and plans for it. Regarding the latter, the report stated: “At the present time, extensions of the railway are proposed from La Puebla, about 14 kilometres (eight and three-quarter miles), to serve the growing residential town of Alcudia and the port there, at which an increasing number of steamships call.”

The article continued: “The island is increasingly popular with both Spanish and foreign tourists, and there would seem to be scope for the development of more speedy rail transport, such as might be provided by fast and comfortable railcars.”

Eighty-five years ago, Mallorca was indeed becoming more popular with tourists, and Alcudia was developing and expanding. There was the garden city project for Alcanada and there was the tourism-residential development on reclaimed wetland that had given rise to, for example, the golf course in Albufera. Three months after the report appeared, everything came to a halt.

Had the Civil War not intervened, might there now be a railway to Alcudia and to the port? The railway went as far as La Puebla - does anyone nowadays ever refer to La Puebla rather than Sa Pobla? - and it had done since 1878.

It can’t be certain that there would have been, as the railway in Mallorca was by 1936 running out of steam (so to speak). Road transport had become far more viable, while the rail lines, which had generated good profits, no longer were.

The more appropriate question, perhaps, concerns why there hadn’t been an extension to Alcudia before 1936. There were plans, but they were obviously never carried out. A map of the network and the planned additions from the early part of the last century indicated that there was to be an extension from Sa Pobla to Alcudia, a link from Alcudia to Pollensa, an extension direct from Inca to Pollensa and on to Puerto Pollensa as well as a link from Muro to Arta.

That map basically covered the whole island, as there were other planned lines, such as from Son Sardina in Palma’s northern district to Deya and from Palma to Andratx.
So, plans there were, but plans were all they were. Consequently, 85 years after The Railway Magazine was speaking about comfortable railcars three months before the war started, we are still waiting for the train to arrive in Alcudia.

Balearic government ministries have been spending the past few days outlining how they intend spending their 2022 budgets. Hence, there was the news about the extension to Alcudia. This, as far as the current government is concerned, is nothing new, as it has existed in the master plan for the island’s public transport for some time. The ministry for mobility is to allocate 1.53 million euros to what are studies of three lines. Alcudia is one of the three.

We’ve known that a study was due to be undertaken, so we now know when - in 2022. Building a line is a different matter, and where the Alcudia extension is concerned, the study revives all the arguments that surfaced some twelve to thirteen years ago.

Francesc Antich, the PSOE president of the pact government from 2007 to 2011, was all in favour of more trains. He did in fact use the phrase “age of the train”, although not in English of course. Any re-use would be unfortunate, given the association between that phrase and a certain Jimmy Savile. There again, Majorcan politicians can be forgiven if they are unaware of this.

Money for the Alcudia extension was available. Madrid had made it available. Looking back to 2009, which was when the plan was scrapped, the generally held view is that the financial crisis did for the project. The crisis and subsequent austerity policies almost certainly would have put an end to it at some point, but the crisis wasn’t the reason for the failure. It was the inability to arrive at consensus as to the route that the extension should take.

The battle over the failed extension was between Alcudia town hall and the mobility ministry, and more specifically between Miquel Ferrer, the mayor, and Gabriel Vicens, the mobility minister. Vicens and his ministry wanted the extension to go alongside the main road from the motorway. Ferrer and the town hall didn’t. They preferred a route by Albufera. Farmers and property owners in Son Fe, who would have been affected by the ministry’s route, staged a tractor protest. Eventually, the ministry gave up. There was to be no extension.

Now that the current government is to undertake its study, one can only foresee similar arguments emerging, on top of which would be any regarding how this line would get to the port. The favoured option in 2008-2009 was for a terminus somewhere behind the auditorium. There was no discussion about taking the line as far as the port.
The study will be awaited with interest, but we probably shouldn’t hold our breath.

Assuming that government consultants and technicians deem that an extension is feasible, by whichever route, there will then come the challenges. 1936 this isn’t.