The people of Madrid use public transport: only seven of every 100 inhabitants of the region never use it, according to the survey Habits and attitudes of transport in the Metropolitan Area of Madrid. That's why they are worried. And the meter, more. In 2018, there were 657.2 million passengers in the subway (validations), 4.6% more than the previous year. "It is the highest figure since 2008 and the fifth consecutive annual increase", defend from Metro de Madrid. The Ministry of Transportation did not respond to calls from this newspaper.
Despite this increase in travelers – and therefore in revenues, which last year increased by 15.6% to close to 900 million euros (almost 390 received from the Community budget, more than 430 from ticket sales and 64.5 of the State) – in the last legislature Metro service has worsened in the opinion of workers 'and travelers' representatives. After the passage of the crisis – with an ERE in between, in 2013, when 670 workers were fired – Metro has a shortage of trains and a lack of drivers. If in 2010 there were 2,369 cars, last year they were 2,322. The numbers of drivers (1,862) remain below 2013, when they moved around 2,000.
Last October, rushed by criticism, the regional government announced the investment of 700 million euros to acquire 60 new trains, which will take between two and three years to be ready. One month after trains, the Community announced the hiring of 100 machinists (with an investment of more than five million euros). In October 2015, another 360 had entered after pressure from the unions. Despite these hirings, there are still around 400 according to the Maquinistas Union. "The contracts almost do not replace pensions," says Francisco Javier del Llano, president of the Metro Works Committee.
This conjunction of more travelers with fewer trains and engineers causes crowds, increased wait times on the platforms and, in short, the systematic breach of the frequencies of passage. Travelers verify this on a daily basis and narrate it on social networks. The frequencies of passage are marked by the Transport Consortium, an organization dependent on the Community of Madrid and responsible for compliance. He has never admonished the suburban yet having proof that he has not provided the agreed services.
For the Community, responsible for the management in the subway, things are being done well. "Metro is the means of transport mostly used by the locals", argue from the regional government, where the Popular Party has been ruling for 24 years. The City Council had shares of the public company until 2012, when the mayor of the PP Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón reached an agreement with the Community and sold them. "The current degradation is the result of the management of so many years of the same party," says Juan Carlos de la Cruz, Comisiones Obreras. He considers that "the PP has been manipulating and using the company" according to their interests and not with a vocation for public service. "It's a pity that in the centenary of Metro we are like that. I have never experienced such a disastrous moment as now, "he added in reference to Borja Carabante, manager of Metro and number four in the PP lists for the mayor's office in the capital.
Another problem that Metro exhibits is the decapitalization that has suffered in recent years: if in 2007 the public company had a value of 1,409 million euros, in 2017 it was only 359. A fall of 74%. "As long as Metro continues, he will have to rescue him," says Teo Piñuelas of UGT. If a valuation is made of the investment necessary for the acquisition of trains; the new contracts; the modernization of the network; and possible extensions, such as that of line 11, Metro would need about 4,000 million euros in the next 10 years. From the company refuse to provide a specific figure.
The big problem of asbestos
The Executive who leaves the polls on May 26 will have to deal with the asbestos crisis, perhaps the most serious of Metro's problems. The commission of investigation of the Assembly of Madrid on the subject concluded that the public company knew from at least 1991 that there was asbestos in its facilities. Despite this, they did not say anything to the workers or did anything to protect them until 2017. At the moment there are five workers with recognized occupational disease – two of them have died of asbestosis and one is in very serious condition. Last month, Metro was sentenced to compensate 400,000 euros to the family of one of those killed by asbestos. "We are afraid that there will be more", they recognize from the Company Committee.
Currently, dozens of workers are being tested to determine if they have the disease, which manifests between two and three decades after exposure. On the other hand, Metro sold in 2011 more than thirty trains to Argentina, all with asbestos. The operation was illegal, which could lead to international litigation. The company has also had to invest 140 million euros to de-aerate its network, a job that sometimes forces it to paralyze trains.
There was a time when Metro de Madrid was flying, as a famous advertisement said. And in its centenary, many consider that it should fly more than ever. But there is no doubt that the serious problems of the public company eclipse the celebration. For the representatives of the workers, "Metro celebrates its centennial without brightness".
In the campaign the meter is again the pretty girl and the politicians have launched to make promises.
- The PP candidate to the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, has promised to improve the frequencies with the hiring of 300 new machinists and 60 more trains, which would mean an investment of 748 million euros. The promise contrasts with the lack of investment of this legislature, where he ruled his party.
- The candidate of Citizens, Ignacio Aguado, has shown its intention to open the metro 24 hours on weekends, a performance that figures at about 60 or 65 million euros. This measure was already tried by Esperanza Aguirre (PP) a few years ago and was not possible due to lack of agreement with the unions and the excessive cost and low profitability of the idea.
- Angel Gabilondo, of the PSOE, proposes a maximum waiting time in three-minute rush hour, a social transport pass for unemployed people, in addition to facilitating the transport of people with reduced mobility, although it has not specified the cost of the measure.
- From More Madrid, Íñigo Errejón bet on 150 new trains and 1,800 new contracts. It also wants to reduce waiting times to a maximum of five minutes and enable toilets and fountains in the suburban area. From More Madrid City Council advocate re-enter the shareholding of Metro, which would provide capital to the company. The PP is opposed to the measure while the PSOE is favorable to study it, but does not confirm that it does.
- Isa Serra, de Podemos, defends a democratization of transport. They would extend the young subscription to the 30 years, financing it with a fiscal reform; they would make hirings; they would review the light rail concessions and put emphasis on the asbestos crisis. They also defend the revision of the operating model of the Transport Consortium so that it "guarantees its political independence".
- Vox it has only presented a similar generic program for all the municipalities and regions. It does not specifically talk about Metro. Neither has wanted to respond to this newspaper about it.
In addition, the different candidates again propose extend the lines of metro, including line 3 to Getafe; line 11 to Conde de Casal and line 5 to the airport. After a very dark time, the metro wants to recover its splendor.
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