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HIGH-SPEED PROGRESS
by J. A.

The plan to extend high-speed rail service (TAV) to Barcelona and from there to the border with France has become a script subjected to endless rewrites. Just when everything seemed to indicate that there would be no change to the original plans, agreed by the central government, the Catalan Autonomous Government and the Barcelona Town Council, calling for inauguration of the service in 2004, the project has taken a radically different direction from the plans agreed several years ago, and what is worse, high-speed rail service is now open to serious doubt.
In 1995, Felipe Gonzßlez, then prime minister of Spain, and Jacques Chirac, the president of France, signed an accord for construction of a high-speed rail link between Barcelona and Montpelier, calling for this service to become operational in 2004. The central government and the Catalan Autonomous Government also approved a plan for a station at La Sagrera. The rail line was to run through the VallŔs region, circumventing Barcelona, and the only matter remaining to be decided was the minor question of access to Barcelona. The 1995 accord constituted a commitment to France, with both countries making assurances that their high-speed rail lines would link up in the year that Barcelona was to host the World Cultural Forum.
(...) The Barcelona Town Council, coinciding with the work done on the subject by the company Barcelona Regional, proposed routing the train to the airport and then La Sagrera through a tunnel under the port, connecting with the already existing tunnel between the Estaciˇ de Franša and the Sant Andreu district. Designs were also drafted for a grand central station at La Sagrera, with various levels for suburban and regional trains and the TAV. There would also be a connection with two other underground stations on lines I and V, by means of an underground shuttle service. A new coach station was also planned next to the train station.
The high-speed train is not just a fast and modern means of transport. It is an infrastructure element that places Barcelona among the top-ranking European cities that have decided to take action in anticipation of the transport needs that will arise in the near future. The link with France, and therefore with the rest of Europe, makes it a vital component of economic activity, since the track gauge allows the movement of goods, and at the same time clears the way for initiatives connected with this sector. It is a link between Spain and other European countries, and for Barcelona, an open door to connections.