Barcelona’s image as a European business capital has been tarnished this week as a result of a series of transport strikes and breakdowns that have made life difficult not only for residents of Spain’s second-largest city, but for the 100,000 or so delegates attending the huge Mobile World Congress (MWC) being held there.
Opposition parties in City Hall have criticized leftist Mayor Ada Colau’s handling of the walkouts that have hit bus and subway services hard, accusing her of “lack of preparation” and “naivety” in talks with labor unions. Representatives of the hotel trade have also joined the chorus of rebukes, saying the strikes have damaged the city’s reputation.
After an initial walkout on Monday, transportation workers began a second planned 24-hour strike on Wednesday after the collapse of talks late on Tuesday. This time, however, bus and train services were running at 65% during rush hour after regional authorities increased minimum services. Nevertheless, it failed to prevent major tailbacks on main highways as people took to their cars.
On Tuesday, a breakdown on line nine of the subway system and a bus strike also caused difficulties. At the same time, a combination of heavy traffic and Sahara dust blown across the Mediterranean from Africa led the Catalan regional government to declare an air pollution alert. The city authorities recommended people use public transport.
Delegates have had trouble getting to MWC, which is only 15 minutes by bus from Barcelona’s center
The week-long MWC, which will continue to be held in Barcelona until 2023, generates around €460 million for the city, and is one of its most important business events.
MWC organizers have publicly criticized Barcelona City Hall’s handling of the strikes, highlighting the difficulties delegates have encountered getting to the trade show, which is being held in the Fira de Barcelona, some 15 minutes by bus from the center of the city, in the Hospitalet de Llobregat district.