Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Last Tuesday we took our first trip on the Majorca Railways system. This was once a network of lines which reached Sa Pobla, Arta, Felanixt, Santanay and Palma port. By 1981 all but the Palma to Inca section remained and even this was in danger, despite being double track.
However the Majorcan government were very far sighted and decided that rather than abandon the railways they were going to develop them. The line was regauged from 3 feet to metre and the closed sections between Inca and Sa Pobla and Manacor have been reopened, in 2001 and 2004 respectively. There is now considerable pressure to reopen the Arta line and also to extend the Sa Pobla line to the coast at Alcudia. I fully expect this to happen sooner rather than later!
Palma main station is now underground and is very impressive. It also serves the very new (2007) metro line to the University. In fact for the first couple of miles it's a real underground railway with three stations, although served partly by diesel trains.
In rebuilding the route much of the original charm of the narrow gauge has been lost, but heavy passenger usage suggests that this is a good thing! Not many tourists find the railway, so there's plenty of potential. I couldn't see any freight facilities en route, but there are new doubling works north of Inca to where the Sa Pobla and Manacor lines diverge.
Ideally these lines should be electrified over the next 10 years or so, as it seems daft to pour in loads of capital supporting a doomed form of transport (diesel).
All in all the Majorca situation where a rail network almost vanished entirely but now is looking at expanding all over (there is also serious talk of another line from Manacor to Palma via the Airport, a tram from Palma to the airport, a tram from the airport to Arenal and a light railway from Port Pollença to Ca'an Picafort connecting to the new Alcudia line) shows what can happen when people look ahead rather than backwards!
Photos 1) DMU at Palma.
2) Train at Manacor.
3) The protected route towards Arta in Manacor.
4) Steam train in very modern surroundings! (Palma)