BARCELONA, Oct 23, 2007 (AFP)
Up to 160,000 commuters in Barcelona had their journeys disrupted yesterday after landslides triggered by the construction of a new high-speed rail line forced the suspension of local train service. More than 200 buses had to be requisitioned to ferry passengers in and out of the city after service on most rail lines was halted. A total of 400 commuter trains from the suburbs were cancelled due to landslides caused by earthworks for the new high-speed AVE line – the Spanish equivalent of France’s TGV.
Commuters were forced to queue for up to half an hour to board special
replacement buses, according to the Spanish media.The Socialist government in Madrid faced criticisms from both the political left and right. With the new rail line scheduled to open in December, Spain’s transport minister Magdalena Alvarez rejected the idea that the incident was a result of a rushed job to avoid any delays.
“The only rush is to ensure we restore services as quickly as possible to
citizens,” she said. Last Wednesday two landslides caused by the construction works resulted in the closure of some suburban rail lines for nearly a week.
The president of the Catalonia regional government Jose Montilla had
already floated the idea of delaying the opening date of the AVE line from
December 21 in order to ensure the safety and security of the railwork.
The Madrid-Barcelona high-speed link is the first stage of a planned line
between France and Spain, which will take in Barcelona, Figueras and
Perpignan. However the link between Barcelona and Figueras, initially due in 2009, is already three years behind schedule