Wednesday, January 05, 2011

On Your Right You Can See The Garage Where We Park The Bus

If you're a tourist in Madrid today and you fancy a trip around the city in one of the open-topped buses of Madrid Visión then you're out of luck. The concession granted to the company by Madrid's town hall has expired and the service has come to a complete halt due to a dispute about whether the company should hand over its buses to the city. In the meantime it seems that the buses could be off the road for several months.

There are those who question whether the service is worth having anyway, a report I read last week in El País said that the buses sweep past many of the city's landmarks without so much as a word of explanation. Instead the tourists get music. It's a lucrative business though, according to this report the company made €62 million last year, of which almost a million goes to the almost empty coffers of Gallardón's administration.

A few years ago this service didn't exist at all, in fact Madrid had a pretty dreadful lack of services for tourists. Then suddenly it seemed as if there were several companies trying to operate tourist buses at the same time. In came the usual suspects, with their decrees that they and only they would decide who gets to operate such a service and awarded the contract to a single company. One of the major participants in Madrid Visión is none other than Gerardo Díaz Ferrán, already famous for having been simultaneously the leader of the national employers association and a contender for the prize of closing down the most companies in a single year.

Whether don Gerardo is about to lose what must be almost his last business is now open to question, as the tender for the concession is being prepared. The new contract will of course give more money to Madrid's administration, as well as requiring tourists to be shipped to such exotic and singular delights as the foaming white water of the Manzanares rapids as the river sweeps through the verdant parkland which er, might be ready for use in a few years time.

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