What was hiding the AVE to Cuenca | Today for Today | Reports

The conversation with the mayor is cut off by the noise made when the train from the conventional line Madrid – Cuenca – Valencia arrives … For months now, only two have passed in each direction, one at mid-morning and the other at mid-afternoon. “I find it hard to believe that we are going to miss the train, they call it a mobility plan for Cuenca, but it is not beneficial for the province,” commented Fran Domenech before the interruption.

The train in Cuenca

The plan presented by ADIF and the Ministry of Transport do not convince the residents of Huete either. “I spent five or six years going to work in Cuenca, but I have no longer looked for a job there due to the situation of the train, because it is not known if they will remove it or not,” explains Araceli López de Julián in front of the nursing home where you now work. “Of course I’m sorry, the bus doesn’t seem bad to me, but the train is more comfortable, you can go for a walk, you even make friends inside; and when it snows it is essential, by road I would be afraid to go to Cuenca ”, he concludes.

Construction of the Cuenca-Utiel / SER line

On-demand buses

This is the option proposed by the Government to provide service to the towns that would be affected by the closure of the conventional train line Madrid – Cuenca – Valencia. The option does not convince almost any of the residents of the 18 affected towns or some of the associations, which in the new scenario would have to reach Cuenca to take an AVE to Madrid or Valencia from there.

“My son goes to University of Valencia and I had to find my life to take it to the AVE: much more money and more upset, ”explains Lourdes, a neighbor of Carboneras de Guadazaón, a Cuenca town just 60 kilometers from the Valencia Community. In the section from Cuenca to Valencia, the train has not circulated since last January, when the storm Filomena hit. Then ADIF explained that the snowfall had damaged the road and the service would continue to be provided temporarily through buses. Until today.

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Paco also lives in the town, where he came to do an internship at the station. He has been working for Renfe for more than 40 years and is now retired. Get to know first-hand how the road has changed: “Before here there were people for everything, they were always aware of everything, a stone that can fall, a lane that seems to move … now there is no maintenance, every time it is worse the line and in the end it dies ”, he laments. “They have let it die, little by little, cyanide in the coffee, a few drops every day, and after the years the dead is already present.

Image of the regional train / SER

That poor state of the line seems to be the only point on which all those affected agree. María José Rallo, Secretary of Transportation of the Ministry, maintains that the objective is to provide services “that are adapted to the needs by being more agile, faster, more flexible and adapted to the needs of the neighbors”, and justifies the plan by a Old-fashioned design, from the last century: “They are trains that in many sections do not exceed 60Km / h, I believe that a slow train with 17 passengers is not an adequate answer.”

The figure is part of the arguments that are handled: each train has 224 seats and according to their data it is used on average by 37 passengers, 17 in the most loaded sections. Railroad scholars, such as Alfonso Vila Francés, author of the book “Spain in Regional”, question these data: “The statistics they handle are not correct, on many lines there is no longer a conductor and the only one who counts the passengers on those lines is the reviewer; they don’t know how many are going ”.

Based on the same data, Greenpeace considers that there are technical reasons to justify the closure of the line. But the analysis is not complete. “You have to ask yourself why this situation has come about, and that’s where our criticism comes from. It has been a conscious decision, an active degradation has been sought, investments have been blocked, maintenance and commercial supply have been reduced to a minimum to the point of expelling the demand to other media “, explains Adrián Fernández, mobility expert at the organization.

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Possible solution?

Image of another regional train / SER

The bus solution does not convince him either: “We are surprised that this bus plan is sold, which would practically place these municipalities as the best communicated in all of Castilla La Mancha. It sounds a bit perverse, they take away the train and put some buses on them that we have no certainty that they will be maintained. What is needed is a comprehensive approach ”.

The other axis on which the government’s proposal revolves is the replacement of the train tracks with green routes for cyclists that promote the development of the region. Greenpeace warns that very few green lines in Spain have brought tourists and it is precisely those that are accessible by train; and that would not be the case in Cuenca, which would be left with only one railway station for the entire province. That of the AVE in the capital, whose council, with the dismantling of the conventional train station, would also have 22 hectares in the center of the capital for other uses.

“It is not the first time that a railway operation has been carried out to requalify land. The plan that the government has presented bears the same images that the CEOE of Cuenca used a few weeks before, with which we can speak at least of a collusion between the interests of the government and those of the businessmen and the Cuenca city council “, suggests Adrián Fernández.

The mayors of the area, united in the Platform by the Train, see the plan as a definitive blow to the progress of their peoples and insist that the advance that the AVE serves for other things: “The traditional railroad structures the territory and unites peoples , not like the AVE, which unites cities, if they take it away from us we are doomed to depopulation “, explains Carlos Arteche, alderman of Carboneras. Nor do they want to hear about green lines and see the proposal as a poisoned gift: “It is a problem because they want us to carry out maintenance and we are small municipalities, we do not have the economic capacity; whoever comes already has enough nature and enough roads ”. The promotion of tourism would sound good to them, but with another approach: “With how beautiful these stations are, designed by Secundino Zuazo, national prize for Architecture … with those stations and those viaducts, this line is one of the most beautiful in Europe ”.

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Some of those who know most about this in this country share that vision. Jose Luis Jiménez defines himself as a ‘train hunter’, he dedicates his free time to touring and photographing trains and railway lines, and has made this journey on numerous occasions: “It is a line show, a work of sublime engineering, it has some viaducts impressive, it is a marvel, a railway that is drilling through the mountains. Touristically, it has an incalculable value, but politicians do not see that ”.

Jose Luis, who also runs one of the most active twitter accounts on this topic (@DeGuadalhorce), he got on the last train that has made the route so far, in January 2021, when it had already started to snow. “The trip was beautiful, but I didn’t know when I got off at Camporrobles station that this was going to be the last train.” It will be if the plan xCuenca It finally comes out ahead, although as Adrián Fernández says: “As long as there is a track, there is hope, because as the track is, the train always passes. The moment the road disappears… there are many towns in emptied Spain where the bus passes once a week, this must also be taken into account ”.


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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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