The dreams of a lifetime disappear this Thursday at the same rate that a red backhoe devours two houses in San Fernando de Henares. The cause of its destruction remains hidden from view, far below the collapsed bricks: landslides caused by Metro line 7B have eaten away at its foundations. The City Council figures in more than 200 houses affected. Right now there are 27 families evicted. A hell that caused this Thursday that David Pérez, Minister of Transport, promised compensation to those affected and recognized that their problems “have been caused” by the construction of the suburban, inaugurated in 2007. At least since a year later, the Government already knew that the Metro could affect buildings, according to documentation accessed by EL PAÍS. Multiple later reports abounded in the warning.
The same year of the premiere of line 7B, the infrastructure managers know that “various pathologies have been detected in relation to an anomalous and increasing entry of highly conductive water to the pumping well located between station 7 (San Fernando) and 8 (Henares) ”. Just six months later, in June 2008, another report warned the Community “of the consequent risk of collapses in the Metro tunnel and surrounding buildings.” In 2009, a third balance alerted the Administration that it is “extremely urgent” to act for this reason. And in 2010, when the problems of the houses were still incipient, a specific document was registered.
“Karstification in this area was not detected with the project’s surveys, probably because it did not exist”, it reads about the changes in the terrain caused by the contact of water (which had not been there before) with the easily soluble salts that glimpse the subsoil (which were already there). “However, the construction of the tunnel and subsequent drainage began to mobilize the flow of underground water and to initiate a progressive process of dissolution of the land, specifically and preferably, of the existing saline levels,” he adds. “(…) In this type of terrain, movement of water means dissolution capacity,” he underlines, alluding to the changes in the terrain that affect the settlement of the foundations of the buildings.
The seed of original sin is planted before the line’s inauguration, according to a government report. With the project already underway, a modification of the route is decided that extends its length and adds stations. Politically, it makes all the sense in the world: there are elections on the horizon, and the equation of more kilometers, more stations, more potential voters affected, more seats, is most desirable. Technically, it seems that not so much: the new route is “negative for the entire pathological process that occurred after the Line was put into service, fitting the tunnel on more problematic terrain than those foreseen in the original project,” a report reads. Commissioned by the Government and dated 2016.
A text that includes a depth charge: “Possibly an excessive time was allowed to elapse since the first symptoms of the problem appeared and therefore the process of dissolution and degradation of the land evolved towards extremes that are difficult to reverse.”
In all that time, Madrid has had six regional presidents and eight transport advisers, but the problem has increased without anyone solving it until it has become a vital drama. More than 200 houses in San Fernando de Henares have seen their foundations move or cracks appear in their walls, and dozens of residents have had to be urgently relocated over the years to have their houses propped up. At this time, 27 families are out of their homes, which they had to leave within 24 hours. And the San Fernando City Council, led by Javier Corpa (PSOE), estimates that there are hundreds of affected residents, for whom it is asking for solutions.
“The line was built more than 14 years ago, but the problems that have been caused by its implementation still require us to act,” said the Minister of Transport, David Pérez, on Thursday. “We have invested about 30 million euros,” he recalled. “And I can say two things,” he continued. “First: the Community has not spared and will not spare a single resource necessary to guarantee the safety of the neighbors and the solution of the problem,” he listed. “And second: all the homes that require rehabilitation, the Community will bear the cost, and in those cases in which the damage prevents the rehabilitation, the Community will respond with the corresponding compensation.”
It was an exception in the government’s speech, which has devoted more resources to trying to solve the problem than words to admit it.
This is what José Trigueros, General Director of Roads and Infrastructures, said in 2017, when a sanctioning proceeding of 17 million euros had already been initiated against the construction company for hidden defects in the work: “What has happened has happened and now we are all torn the garments. The situation is inherited, and I said it in my first speech: on Mondays the pool on Sundays is right ”.
And this is what Pérez himself said in July: “Having 250 Metro stations, when a problem arises is normal (…) Look, our sin was wanting to take the Metro to the Corredor del Henares. And we carry it. It gives a very good service to the residents of that area. It is true that problems have arisen, and are being addressed ”.
Almost 15 years after its inauguration, line 7B causes nightmares in dozens of families. Many tell how their houses creak at night, as if they were sleeping on a wooden boat tossed about by a storm. Others remember how the train circulated in the early years with the windows covered by a gray layer, the trace of the saltpeter that gnaws at everything. To enter or leave the house, the neighbors say, you have to be a gymnast, because the doors are blocked, altered as is the geometry of many buildings. And above all, nobody stops being alert. The subway continues to circulate while the base of their houses moves.
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