Large metropolitan infrastructures: competition or cooperation?
The director of the Josep Tarradellas Barcelona - El Prat Airport, Sonia Corrochano, Pere Macias, coordinator of the Catalonia Cercanías Plan and Jordi Torrent, head of strategy at the Port of Barcelona, has participated on a debate about infraestructures organized by the Catalunya Europa Foundation, the Barcelona Metropolitan Strategic Plan (PEMB) and the Club of Rome.
In a debate on large metropolitan infrastructures, the expansion of the Barcelona - El prat Airport has inevitably been one of the protagonists of the day. But the conference "Large metropolitan infrastructures: competition or cooperation?" organized within the framework of the Metròpolis Multinivell Cycle, has gone a step further and has put on the table the debate on the efficiency and sustainability of large transport infrastructures in Catalonia.
For Sonia Corrochano, current director of the main Catalan airport, "the optimization work on the runways cannot solve a fundamental inefficiency that has to do with the length of long-haul planes needed to take off". In other words, for Corrochano, an extension of the short runway is fundamental so that the El Prat Airport can continue to grow.
Andreu Ulied, director of the MCRIT consultancy and moderator of the session, pointed out the possibility that a possible substitution of short-haul flights for high-speed rail could offset the growth of long-haul flights. However, Corrocahano believes that it is not feasible because, currently, short-duration flights only account for 6% of total operations and, furthermore, adds the director, “the passengers that feed the long radius do not arrive by train but by train. short-haul flights ”. In other words, short-haul flights allow people from outside the territory to get to Barcelona Airport to escalate to long-haul flights, one of the keys to turning the Airport into a hub. However, Corrochano has opted to promote airport-rail complementarity and has given as an example the high-speed station that is planned to be built at Girona Airport and which should serve to make the Girona airport more attractive, connecting it more easily with Barcelona.
For Pere Macias, coordinator of the Commuter Plan of Catalonia, with a good rail investment, the percentage of flights that can be replaced by the train can go from 6 to 20%. For this reason, he has said, it is necessary to "bet on the Mediterranean Corridor, remake the Ebro Axis and increase frequencies with France." Macias added, but that "without strategic agreements, the infrastructures cannot be done, and this necessarily involves agreeing on objectives." Jordi Torrent, the Port of Barcelona's chief strategy officer, also believes that good connectivity between the port and the rail network is essential and therefore emphasizes the importance of investing in it. However, Torrent considers that "the port of Barcelona is a case of success in the process of transferring goods from roads to trains." In fact, he adds, most of the freight trains that pass through Catalonia have their departure point in the Port of Barcelona.
In the debate on the efficiency and sustainability of these three infrastructures, there have been no shortage of questions about the strategies to face the climate crisis. A fact that is especially important in the case of the Delta del Llobregat. From the Port of Barcelona, ??Jordi Torrent has defended "the effort of the maritime sector to reduce its environmental footprint". Currently, maritime traffic is responsible for approximately 3% of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the ships in the port are also responsible for the majority of sulfur oxide gases (SOx) that are emitted in the city. To put a stop to it, since January 2020 a regulation of the International Maritime Organization has come into force that reduces the percentage of SOx allowed from 3.5% to 0.5%, although there are still no official results on what has been its impact. The port also has pending issues such as electrifying the docks and taking advantage of its own capacity to generate renewable energy, but for Torrent, the great challenge is to find an alternative to marine fuel that can be used massively. This reflection is also shared by Corrochano in the case of the airport. He believes that "in the medium term, the large aircraft manufacturers are already working to make hydrogen, as a biofuel, a reality." Pere Macias, on the other hand, assures that on environmental issues Cercanías he has already done his homework because "the railway already works with clean energy." And he added that "the good infrastructure manager will be the one who, knowing the limitations - the first of all, the climate crisis - can provide more services with maximum efficiency and the least externalities." A premise subscribed by Oriol Estela, PEMB general coordinator, who has concluded that the ecological transition will mark the rest of the transitions and will define the role that infrastructures will have to play in the future.