A train to revive the industry | Elections in Castilla y León 13F


Railway tracks in the province of Burgos.
Railway tracks in the province of Burgos.Nacho Left

The train tracks of Lerma (Burgos, 2,500 inhabitants), surrounded by ruins, are only missing balls of hawthorn pushed by the wind to look like a desolate scene from the Far West. In the past, the convoys roared here, today the sleepers have been abandoned since it was closed in 2011 —after a collapse in Somosierra— this railway connection between the north of Spain and Madrid, with a stopover in Burgos. The lack of public interest in reopening the route, despite the constant demands of the region, truncated a straight line that once linked Algeciras with France and was a strategic route for industry in Burgos, the most powerful in Castilla y León. The extra price of traveling 100 kilometers through Ávila and Valladolid drives away companies.

This circumstance can be seen in Lerma, where there are barely a couple of weekly trains to Aranda de Duero (32,000 inhabitants), another Burgos enclave whose location, if this direct railway existed, would benefit many companies. Carlos Alonso, an employee of the City Council, explains that a factory that produces elements of the windmills employs about 150 people in the small town, but has to send the production through the A-1 motorway due to the absence of a train stop. Adif demolished the old and dilapidated station a few weeks ago: “It’s a symptom that everything is dying,” says Alonso. The province lost 1,600 inhabitants in 2021, 0.4% of its population.

21 01 2022. The claim to open the direct railway between Burgos and Madrid aims to increase the commercial and industrial weight of the province.  Nacho Left

The mayor of Lerme, Maribel Sancho (PP), insists that recovering this merchandise traffic would benefit all the towns near these forgotten platforms. The same scenario for Aranda, whose councilor, Raquel González (PP), points out that its proximity to the A-1 or its location between the Basque Country and Madrid and between Castilla y León and Aragón make it an industrial hub with enormous potential. The large factories of Pascual, Michelin or Bridgestone, she maintains, would soon be joined by more companies if they had that north-south link.

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Carlos Alonso, an employee of the Lerma City Council, in a section of abandoned tracks.
Carlos Alonso, an employee of the Lerma City Council, in a section of abandoned tracks.Nacho Left

The geographical factor is strongly wielded in Burgos city, in whose alfoz industrial companies such as the lumber company Kronospan, Campofrío or L’Oreal grow. Rafael Medina, a member of the Socibur association, has been fighting for the reopening of the direct route for years. This recently retired public works engineer gives away a green scarf from his collective, with the image of a locomotive pulling an intangible load: “Commerce”, “Companies”, “Industry”, “Future”, “Jobs”. The former Transport Minister José Luis Ábalos and the current minister, Raquel Sánchez, both from the PSOE, have already received the gift and the request to reinvest in this connection, which has already created and well-preserved infrastructures. “There are no level crossings to build,” underlines Medina, who appeals to politicians to act and counteract depopulation – which in recent years has even damaged provincial capitals such as Burgos – with a good industrial park eager for this train. Emiliana Molero, general secretary of Burgos Companies, insists that thousands of tons of goods per year could be distributed from this industrial pole to any point in the Spanish or European geography.

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This week the PP has urged in the Senate that the Government reopen the link. The Socialists have responded that they will continue the work to repair the tunnel, and ask Castilla y León and the Community of Madrid for “collaboration”. The Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, promised ten million months ago for the plan, but Socibur fears that it will not be extra money but part of Adif’s conservation funds.

The icy wind bites the skin in this area of ​​Burgos, where industrial buildings are located next to the airport. The businessman Ignacio San Millán, one of the representatives of the local employers, shows that huge dry port and points out that thousands of wagons would arrive there if the rail link returned. “It is a fundamental strategy, we foresee that the Burgos industry would increase tremendously”, he points out. San Millán explains from the top of one of those buildings in the estate, with a few snowflakes crossing among the hundreds of containers, that these facilities would be “perfect” for distributing by rail the industrial merchandise that would arrive by road from Portugal; and, on the way back, fill the trucks on the way to the Portuguese neighbor.

There would also be, says Rafael Medina, an environmental benefit, because each train would remove about 40 trailers from the roads. “We don’t ask for God’s either, but rather something normal,” emphasizes the Socibur member. In the best of cases, he affirms, after the line of goods there could be a line of people transport to increase the tourist value of the province. The first step to achieve this requires knocking down that wall erected in the Madrid tunnel where the collapse occurred in 2011. Later, they say, they will continue to insist that the locomotives circulate again.

Burgos in nine data

Population. Burgos has 356,055 inhabitants (it lost 1,595 last year), with an average age of 46.8 years.

Extension. There are 371 municipalities in 14,022 square kilometers. Density: 25.4 people per square kilometer.

Economy and politics. The unemployment rate is 10%. The province elects 11 attorneys. In 2019 the PSOE won.

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John Navarro

Collaborator of EL PAÍS in Castilla y León, Asturias and Cantabria since 2019. He learned at esRadio, La Moncloa, in corporate communication, looking for life and stepping on the street. He graduated in Journalism from the University of Valladolid, Master in Multimedia Journalism from the Complutense University of Madrid and Master in Journalism EL PAÍS.

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Status of an area affected by the fire in Ávila in August 2021.
From the left, Luis Tudanca (PSOE), Alfonso Fernández Mañueco (PP), Francisco Igea (Cs), Pablo Fernández (Unidas Podemos), Juan García-Gallardo (Vox), Luis Mariano Santos (UPL), Pedro Pascual (For Ávila ) and Ángel Ceña (Empty Spain).

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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