Newsletter - Autumn 2008
Freeserve/Wanadoo/Orange changed their hosting arrangements and completely wiped out the original version of my website. I've still got almost all of the original files and images but all the links need to be updated to this new location and so you may find that some links don't work. Please let me know if you find any so that I can make the necessary correction.
As I reported last year, the brand new Metro line from the brand new intermodal station at Plaza D'Espanya in Palma to the University was flooded by unexpected (!!!) rain which exposed the fact that drainage of rainwater from the underground railway and its stations had apparently been almost entirely overlooked. A number of the stations were very seriously flooded to a depth of more than 2 metres and the operator realised that rain DOES happen in Majorca. The electrically-powered line to the University was promptly closed again and work eventually began to install pumps and drainage. This work was finally completed in Summer this year and the Metro opened again at the end of July. I travelled on it last week and it is certainly an efficient little railway, in my own view more a tramway than a railway. The two-coach units run at 15 minute intervals from the new Intermodal station which is huge.
Whether you buy your ticket from the ticket office or a machine, you get a fairly flimsy paper receipt/ticket which has a barcode printed on it which you show to one of the little windows on the gates leading to the platforms to gain access. It appears you also have to go through the same procedure at the end of your journey, to get through the exit gates.
[2022/12 Unfortunately, non of the images this pages referred to have been recoverable]
The seats in the trains are of moulded plastic and are situated along the sides of the coaches, leaving plenty of space for standee passengers during rush hours. The journey from end to end of the line takes less than 15 minutes so comfortable seating isn't really a priority.
I travelled in the front of the train, just behind the driver's compartment and I was leaping out at all of the stations in the tunnel with my industrial-strength digital camera to take photos. I was particularly impressed that there is hardly any gap between the door sill and the platforms, made easy because none of the stations is on a curve.
The driver must have seen me in his large rear-view mirror because he beckoned me through the interior door to his compartment to join him in the front of the train, which was most enjoyable.
After emerging from the tunnel the next stop is Son Sardina, which has the Sóller Railway station alongside to which it is connected by an underground subway which can be accessed at both ends by lifts. On the Sóller Railway station building can be seen the badge of our friends AAFB (Associación de Amigos del Ferrocarril de Baleares - link below).
Soon after leaving Son Sardina the line crosses over the Sóller Railway and the main road to Sóller then dips down to enter a tunnel again before arriving at the terminal UIB station. The station is enormous and I can't really see any good reason for it's huge size other than the aggrandisement of the people who commissioned the line. The same, I'm sorry to say, has to go for a great deal of the infrastructure. In my opinion, the amount of traffic on the line doesn't justify double tracking - a single line with doubling/passing loops in the stations would have been sufficient and would have reduced the costs considerably. Thousands of cubic yards or rock wouldn't have had to be excavated from the tunnels and the bridge over the Sóller Railway and the main road to Sóller would surely have been much cheaper if it had only been a single line. The catenary overhead also looks rather heavy when compared to those used by standard-gauge railways in the UK and metre-gauge railways in Switzerland.
So far I don't think there has yet been doubling of track between Inca and Empalme and I saw no evidence of the "new" trams on the Sóller Railway and I don't know whether the new computerised control units have been fitted to the existing units.
I am, however, regretfully of the opinion that the Sóller Railway, my favourite railway in the whole world, has sold its soul. The fare on the tram has gone up to €4 which would be OK if the ride was enjoyable. However, due to what appears to be a huge increase in the amount of traffic from the boat cruises, you almost always have to stand in a crush reminiscent of rush-hour on the London Underground, with little opportunity of seeing any scenery apart from the back of the neck of the person crammed in in front of you ! When you arrive at the station in Sóller, you may find, as I did, that you can't travel in the rear coach which would have allowed you to get good photos from the rear balcony. No, the rear coach had been reserved for a gang of people from a cruise liner who transferred to a coach at Son Reuss, beyond which there's very little you'd want to photograph anyway. The single fare on the train has also been increased (to €10), meaning that a trip from Puerto de Sóller into Palma by tram and train now costs €14, compared to €3.65 on the much-quicker, air-conditioned TIB bus on which you could take your luggage. If you're in Sóller, looking at the huge queue for the tram, remember you can take a taxi to Puerto de Sóller for only €8 so, if there are two of you the choice is very simple.
The Sóller Railway, in my opinion, needs to give serious attention to its fares for the tram and/or else improve the service to justify a charge of €4 for a journey of only 3Km. They also need to realise that the train is now a tourist attraction only and possibly consider the introduction of an open car, similar to those used on many alpine tourist railways, so that people who really want to see the scenery have a chance of realising their wish. Ideally, there would be one at each end of the train, so that there was always one at the rear but I can see that would be a problem but not one which couldn't be overcome.
Stop Press - 12th APRIL, 2009
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© Barry Emmott - September 2008 minor adjustments 12th April, 2009