The Ministry of Public Works knew three years ago that it would need to withdraw hundreds of loss-making rail routes across Spain to meet European Union requirements. That restructuring process got underway on Sunday, but with one major hitch: passengers were not warned in advance.
Monday, for instance, it was almost impossible to know exactly what trains were operating around the northwestern region of Galicia. National rail operator Renfe, and Adif, the company that manages the lines, attributed the delay in informing rail users to last-minute political decisions to make changes to the announced cuts. The ministry has remained silent on the matter.
Renfe’s official position is that in the first 48 hours since the cuts came into effect, it had received no formal complaints about the lack of information, despite the fact that it has become a burning issue on the social networks. An official spokesman, who attributed the problems to a “technical” rather than a “political” matter, said the new timetables were not being distributed “quickly enough, but the trains are working.”
Adif, too, said there had been no problems regarding the availability of lines for the new services. It said it would normally know the new time slots months in advance, but on this occasion, according to the two organizations, the Public Works Ministry was on Friday still ordering changes to reduce the number of trains being axed.
For example, the ministry had months ago announced the elimination of the least-used Galician route, between Ourense and Puebla de Sanabria, but at the last minute decided to “delay” its closure from last Sunday until later in June, according to the Renfe spokesman.
These last-minute changes also help explain the slip-up made by regional infrastructure chief Agustín Hernández last Wednesday when he told the Galician parliament that 72 out of 306 weekly services in the region were to be withdrawn — 23.5 percent. In the end 36 services were canceled — 11.7 percent — with Galicia also gaining extra services to Madrid. Beyond that figure, Renfe was on Monday unable to give details of which services were currently running in the region.
In practice, the number of links between major cities has not been greatly reduced, but many intermediate stops have. The Galician regional parliament said alternative bus routes were available, serving all the closed stations.