Monday, 23 January 2012

Spain's fast rail forestalled problems for farms

11:39 |


On a crisp Saturday morning last fall, Luis Valciente and Mercedes Martin enjoyed the quiet of their farm about 20 miles northeast of Seville. The retired husband and wife bought their patch of land in 1987, several years before Spain's first high-speed trains started running between Madrid and Seville. "It's very tranquil, which is what we like after all these years," Martin said through an interpreter. Without warning, a loud "swoosh" briefly interrupted the couple. It was one of Spain's AVE high-speed trains rushing on tracks about 100 feet from the rear of the couple's modest home. Within seconds, the noise subsided and the couple resumed their chat. To train passengers, the Valciente farm is little more than a blur about 10 minutes before they get to Seville, the southern terminus for the trains. Each arrival sends fresh activity through the station and a surge of cabs, cars and pedestrians onto the streets near the historic city's commercial center. Nearby restaurants, shops and rental-car agencies vie for attention from the arrivals. Spain's system connects urban centers and smaller provincial capitals while crossing fertile agricultural regions, much like California's planned high-speed rail system. In the countryside, Barcelona transportation engineer Andreu Ulied said, the Spanish government went to great lengths and expense to minimize the effect on farms. It skirted farmland where it could, built frequent overpasses and underpasses, and generously compensated owners who lost property to the project. In larger Spanish cities such as Madrid, Seville, Valencia, Cordova and Barcelona, stations for high-speed trains are in developed, central-city commercial districts. In Barcelona, preservationists' fears of a train tunnel under the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia forced extensive engineering measures to avoid damaging the iconic church. Most merchants near the stations say high-speed rail is good for commerce, but they are unsure whether it has directly helped their stores and restaurants. Ulied, economist Germà Bel and others say the prospects for economic gains by high-speed rail cities are murky at best, and at worst could bleed commerce from smaller cities between larger destinations. Valciente and Martin, who are in their 70s, tend to fruit trees and corn on their 6½-acre farm. The AVE trains speed by the farmstead several times an hour, "and it hasn't affected us at all," Valciente said. "We don't even feel them," Martin added. The trains create no wind turbulence, she said, and are less bothersome than slower, regional commuter trains. Conventional trains were there when Valciente bought the farm, but he doesn't think AVE trains affected his property value, and if neighbors have complaints, he hasn't heard them. High-speed rail raised little opposition from the agriculture industry. That experience stands in contrast to the objections by farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, where faith in the state rail authority and the economy are in short supply. Growers and ranchers say they fear losing farmland and homes, and worry the tracks will keep them from moving across their land. They also doubt they'll be fairly compensated for their property or troubles. Spanish officials worked with farmers to head off concerns, said Pedro Pérez del Campo, environmental policy director for ADIF, the government-owned company that runs the system. "It's in our interest to make it easier for the farmers," he said, noting the priority is to ensure farmers with divided property can reach all of the land. "About every 500 meters, there is the ability to pass from one side of the rail to the other. We are obligated that if the rails were to cross your property, we have to give you the ability to cross."

You Might Also Like :


Your Links

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...