“This is not an AVE, this is the witch’s train, the kind they put in the pots at the fairs.” The new service of the Extremaduran train has come into operation this Monday afternoon, in the midst of a wave of serious fires in this autonomous community, which has aggravated criticism of the opening ceremony, which has been maintained despite the unfortunate circumstances.

With the ash from the smoke still boiling in the main tourist centers of the province of Cáceres (Las Hurdes, the Monfragüe National Park and Valle del Jerte -the latter still uncontrolled), the ‘performance’ has continued, with the presence of King Felipe VI and the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez. After the inauguration, the Monarch will visit the residents affected by the Las Hurdes fire and Sánchez already did so hours before in the Monfragüe region.

However, the route that the authorities and their guests made this Monday, reserved only for the section between Cáceres and Badajoz, passed through Mérida, bypassing Plasencia, which sparked the anger of the neighbors and local authorities.

In any case, in the new inaugural trip this Monday, what EL MUNDO published last week was ratified again: it is neither an AVE, as the Government intended to sell in its invitation to the inauguration, nor – as it later rectified before criticism – a high-performance train. The controversy, far from being mitigated, has caused more outrage, especially after the fires. “It was not the time”, is the most unanimous opinion that could be heard at the gates of the Cáceres station at the beginning of the inaugural route. “We want a decent train, and this is not decent either,” Juan Carlos López, spokesperson for the ‘Milana Bonita’ collective, the most demanding group for years, has insisted over the last few days.

“We have fought so that the trains are the same as those that go along the rest of the railways throughout Spain and, until now, we have not had the opportunity to find a train that is not even half worthy, so they have brought the King to inaugurate a work that is unfinished, without electrifying and without finishing completely: the Plasencia-Badajoz line”. In short, what Extremadurans want is “a decent train, that doesn’t stop us, that doesn’t burn down and that arrives on time”. To give some examples, that users do not have to pull the handbrake because the air conditioning does not work in the middle of a heat wave, at temperatures of more than 40 degrees, like a few weeks ago… Or burning trains in the middle of the countryside .

The president of the Junta de Extremadura, Guillermo Fernández Vara, has defended the new service: “It is a small step, but an important step after all”, he underlined, considering that what is truly important is that the service will also be able to count on trains not only for passengers but also for goods: “That large companies and industries want to settle in Extremadura has to do with the new railway platform”. The president of Extremadura highlighted the investment of 1,400 million euros in a train “that will allow the economic development of the region”.

Along the same lines, Pedro Sánchez expressed himself in Badajoz, after the inaugural trip: “We are going to continue working to put the electrification of the entire section into service in 2023, which is going to be essential to get the most out of this first Extremadura high-speed line”. For the President of the Government, it is essential that it be a mixed railway, “both passenger and freight, which were pending issues for the railway in our country, all with the aim of facilitating this process of transformation for the reindustrialization of Spain and, in particular, of those territories that logically, during these last decades, have been impeded from that progress by industrial revolutions that had to do with other energy sources that had nothing to do with the one that Extremadura had, such as renewables ” .

Among the political parties, neither the Grupo Ciudadanos en Extremadura nor the Grupo Podemos attended the event, which after leaving Cáceres passed through Mérida and concluded in Badajoz. On the part of the PP, the new regional president, María Guardiola, was present, who claimed to do so “out of respect for the Royal House.”

The new service that will come into service this Tuesday for users covers only 135.6 km of a total of 189.2 km of the AVE platform between Badajoz and Plasencia, but among other things it does not reach this town (it does reach the station of Monfragüe), within a section that will cover, when it is finished, the Badajoz-Madrid route, still a long way from not only finishing but even putting many of the sections out to tender, after more than 20 years of promises, studies, projects and, finally, works still unfinished. The result: if all goes well, 51 minutes saved. Still by car it takes considerably less to cover the same route.

The data leaves no room for doubt: those 135.6 km of the new route, 28% (53.6 km) specifically, will continue to follow the old train route, specifically, from the Badajoz station to the platform built in Novelda (13.8 km); access to Mérida by bypass (under construction) for 16.8 km; the entrance to the Mérida station (9 km) and the access to the Cáceres station (14 km).

Starting today, commercial trips will take a total of 1 hour and 51 minutes to cover the Extremadura section from Badajoz to Monfragüe station, that is, the train will circulate at an average commercial speed of approximately 102 km/hour, with sections at 53.6 km/h, precisely where the old route runs, so the Alvia must go at a low speed.

This train is precisely the one that will provide the service. It does so by running on diesel, since it takes at least one more year to complete the electrification of the entire AVE platform. This train can only reach a maximum of 180 km/h; but only in certain sections, apart from those of the old road. For example, on the Tajo and Almonte bridges, in addition to the Santa Marina tunnel in Cañaveral, they are limited to 120 km/h.

The railway service between Badajoz and Madrid has been exceeded by 437 km, so what has been inaugurated is less than a third of the route (135.6 km). The biggest problem for its completion is in completing the route between Plasencia and Madrid, which is still paralyzed.

At this time, there is no section of the works completed between Plasencia and Navalmoral de la Mata (still in Extremadura). In fact, some of them have not started yet. Specifically, there are 68.6 km that will require at least another five years of work to be able to put them into service. But the worst is what is still missing since leaving Extremadura. The 140 km that separate Navalmoral/Oropesa and Pantoja (in Toledo, for the connection with the AVE line that comes from Seville) do not even have the informative study and the approved Environmental Impact study. There are experts who assure that this section will not be until 2035, since it will not be able to attract European funds for its financing.

“It is highly surprising that the 248 railway kilometers that separate Plasencia (Monfrague) from Madrid (Atocha) are completed (without AVE works) in 2 hours and 27 minutes, that is, at an average speed of 101 km/hour”, he highlights. Víctor del Moral, deputy of the PP in Extremadura, expert in railway matters.

In short, starting tomorrow, and if there is no breakdown, the trip between Badajoz and Madrid will now take 4 hours and 18 minutes, at an average speed of 101.5 km/h. That is exactly – but with ‘wifi’ service and air conditioning – what has been inaugurated.

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