Back in Spain’s boom times, when housing developments and industrial parks were being planned all over the country, the O Páramo municipality in Lugo (Galicia), which counts on fewer than 1,500 residents, was given the great news that Spain’s high-speed AVE rail network would be coming to town. With the Popular Party (PP) in government, the Public Works Ministry decided in 2002 to build a new train station in O Páramo as part of the promised line between Ourense and Lugo, the first station in the town’s history, replacing the one in neighboring A Pobra de San Xiao, in Láncara.
The site chosen for the new station was Moscán, the home village of PP mayor of O Páramo, Gumersindo Rodríguez Liz. In 2006, the ministry granted funding to build the tracks and station.
But the AVE dream has since turned into a nightmare. The station and tracks are complete but there is no train service. Spanish state-owned railway operator Renfe told EL PAÍS that no one can get on or off at the station. Official sources from Renfe explain that the old station at A Pobra de San Xiao was closed in 2002 because there were not enough passengers to make it viable. “If there were no passengers before when the station was in town, there are even fewer now that it is far from here,” explained the train authority.
What’s more there is still no high-speed line between Lugo and Ourense. But even if this does come to fruition, the station at O Páramo will be of little use, given it is only 15 kilometers away from Lugo.
“There’s not a soul here who takes the train,” admitted the mayor of O Páramo, Rodríguez Liz, who says he understands Renfe’s decision not to extend its high-speed service: “Businesses have to keep profitability in mind.” But the mayor is optimistic the new station could one day be put to use. “At the time, the infrastructure works gave life to these places. Who knows? Perhaps they will not do so again in the future. We have to give it time,” he says.
The 12 months it took to complete the works is arguably a short period when compared to the still-incomplete AVE line between Lugo and Ourense. The plan to join the two regional capitals, now connected by a train that takes nearly two hours to travel the 100-kilometer distance, has not gone further than the drawing board.
The government of PP Prime Minister José María Aznar promised the high-speed line in compensation for the damage down by the Prestige tanker oil spill – Spain’s biggest environmental catastrophe. And in 2009, the premier of Galicia, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, said he would oversee the works himself from the regional government if the Socialist Party government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero did not give them the green light.
The station and tracks are complete but there is no train service
But with no AVE service in sight, the €90 million invested by the Public Works Ministry in the seven kilometers of train tracks and O Páramo train station have only served to improve the sluggish train service that runs between Lugo and Ourense.
According to Adif, which manages Spain’s rail infrastructure, 14 rail crossings have been removed and the station in Moscán is now only being used to store train traffic devices. “The operator is responsible for possible train service stoppages to passengers,” said Renfe. When asked how much money was spent on the station with passengers, Adif said it wasn’t possible to “individualize” the amount and claimed the details were in its “single contract.”
English version by Melissa Kitson.