Friday, December 05, 2008

That's No Way To Stop A Train

The latest action this week by ETA, the execution of businessman Ignacio Uria, goes beyond demonstrating the ever more clear futility of the group's existence. Uria was killed because his company was working on the extension of Spain's high speed rail network to the Basque cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian. What is known in the rest of the country as the AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) had already been retitled for its Basque section as the TAV (Tren de Alta Velocidad). This rebadging does little to comfort those who regard a fast train link to Madrid as a connection to the heart of the colonialist beast.

There are good reasons for not feeling comfortable with the way in which high speed train travel has developed in Spain. The very fast connections between cities come with an environmental cost and the withdrawal of other trains that served intermediate towns on the route. Personally I think its great that I can get to Barcelona from Madrid in 2.5 hours but it comes at a cost that some people can't necessarily afford. The straight flat line that 300 km per hour trains require means that obstacles in the way have to be somehow removed. Perhaps if the train went at 200 km per hour it could just go round rather than through some of the natural landscapes affected by the new lines.

The problem now for anyone who wants to make such reasoned arguments in the Basque Country is that ETA has charged into the fray by shooting a contractor. The great fault line that runs through many of the arguments justifying terrorism is that those who claim to act in the name of the "people" are not inclined to let those same people decide how to campaign on an issue. Instead they assume the right to decide for themselves. Anyone opposing the project without supporting violence against those working on it will now find that their arguments are overshadowed by ETA's decision to try and dictate the shape of opposition to the new link.

1 comment:

Troy said...

Ahhh the greenwash of the AVE. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride on which we've all been taken...

Sure, the train is less polluting than flying...but it's also much more expensive. Well of course I forgot, they do give discounts for frequent travellers, just the people who need it really.

What's that you say? Take a cheaper train? Tell that to those who want to travel between Madrid and Barcelona, it's the AVE or the highway I'm afraid. All those good green intentions streaming onto buses plying the congested and increasing motorways around the country. Coming soon to you in Valencia, Galicia, the Basque country, Extremadura and even Lisbon.

What about the Talgo? Couldn't that Spanish train travel at around 250km/hr? Right, it could, just needed to straighten out some of the existing lines. But why do that when you can lay down completely new ones, all with technology from our friendly neighbour in France.

Don't our small "s" socialists make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? RENFE and the PSOE, for the people...