A set of works that he has been talking about for years are going to take giant steps this summer. All at once, as a show of strength so no one can tell the Rail Infrastructure Manager (Adif) that does not invest in Catalonia. At the station of the Sagrera The works will be completed so that the first trains of Rodalies for its interior in autumn and in Sants The routes will be reorganized to improve the reliability of the entire network from next year. In addition, the Mediterranean corridor will connect in Martorell the existing international gauge stretches to the north, from the border, and to the south, in Tarragona, in a strategic operation to promote the transport of goods with Europe.
All this has a counterpart: the effects for Rodalies users will be important during the next summer months and part of the autumn. The plan had already been predefined for a long time – in fact, some of these works were to have materialized last summer – but the decrease in demand for public transport stemming from the coronavirus crisis has given the necessary push to the administrations involved to reschedule and throw forward all the works, with their corresponding effects. The president of Adif, Isabel Pardo de Vera, is clear: “It is the ideal time, you had to decide between not doing it for fear of any incident or having good programming, coordinating all the parties and moving forward.”
Both the infrastructure managers and the operator (Renfe) and the owner of the service (the Generalitat) have been working for weeks on the alternative transport plan, which will especially affect R4 users in the Penedès, where circulation will be cut and an alternative road service will be offered. For their part, travelers on the Maresme They will have fewer trains and between one thing and another, rebounding, practically the entire Rodalies network will be affected with a reduction in frequencies (see infographic on the next page).
The weekend of July 25 is the one marked in red on the calendar. It will be when work begins both on the section cut from Martorell to install the third thread of the Mediterranean corridor and in La Sagrera, where a truly historic moment will be lived, by diverting one of the two routes of the Maresme line through the interior of the station. Thousands of cubic meters of reinforced concrete later, the structure through which the Rodalies trains will circulate is already a reality. Work is now being done on the railway layout with its tracks, catenaries, control equipment, signaling, security facilities … When the works of this phase are finished, in November, the trains will pass through the infrastructure, although they will do so without stopping . This milestone will still be years away, but it is a decisive step that is presented as the clearest demonstration that the construction of the great intermodal station in Barcelona is progressing at a good pace once and for all. While the works last, it will circulate on a single track, which requires reducing the frequency of passage on line R1 for four months.
Until the Sagrera station is finished, in 2024 at the earliest, Sants will continue to be the central station of the Catalan capital, although it was never intended for it. What happens at this point has immediate effects on the rest of the Rodalies network. As if it were a butterfly effect, an incident in this station ends up damaging travelers from Vic, Granollers or Sitges. That is why, on its platforms, work has been carried out since the beginning of June which is not very attractive but which Pardo de Vera defines as “key to the functionality of Rodalies”, since it will clearly have an impact on improving the reliability of the service.
With an investment of nine million euros, the tracks will be reorganized, so that the trains that circulate through the saturated tunnel that goes to Plaza Catalunya can have four tracks at the Sants station instead of the two they currently have. The new distribution between the two tunnels that run through Barcelona will allow us to offer quick alternatives in the event of a train breakdown at the station, in addition to speeding up and down the number of passengers because two convoys can do it at the same time instead of having to wait as it comes. happening so far.
The precariousness that wants to be resolved, and that will be palpable from next year, when the works are finished, leaves the Rodalies network very exposed throughout the summer. The works will touch the security and communications facilities and any unforeseen event could paralyze all the Rodalies. “There is a contingency plan so that the risks are minimal and the most delicate work will be done at night and in weekend breaks,” says the Adif president.
Outside Barcelona, the installation of the third thread of the Mediterranean corridor between Sant Vicenç de Calders and Castellbisbal. This point is known as the gateway to Europe because its execution will allow connecting the freight trains that come from Tarragona and the south with the existing high-speed line to the French border. The adaptation to international width of this railway junction has a budget of 109 million and will give meaning to all the works of the Mediterranean corridor that have been carried out so far to one side and the other. According to Pardo de Vera, “it will make the corridor with the most competitiveness stronger and will give reasons for the rest of the project to keep going.”
The adaptation of the Castellbisbal knot will make freight traffic more competitive
This is the work that supposes a greater affectation for the travelers. More than the summer months, what worries the administrations is September and October, when if no outbreak of the Covid-19 prevents it, the more general movements will return, although without reaching the levels prior to the health crisis. At the moment the plan is to offer road service between Martorell and Sant Sadurní, passing by Gelidaalthough it could extend up to Vilafranca. As many of the travelers who use the R4 have the region’s capital as their origin or destination, the Generalitat is studying the possibility of adding reinforcements using semi-direct express buses.
Freight trains will also be affected and will be diverted along the coast line, which, in turn, forces the frequency of passage of R2 to be temporarily reduced to fit the complex railway puzzle with its new parts.