Now they want to put up some fences, because they say the train makes too much noise.
Spain is about to completely enclose the area of the coastline that is safe from urbanization
And you won’t be able to see the sea or what? If the grace of the Rambla is to see the sea. We already know that we have the train, what they should do is to bury it underground, but not put fences. It’s always been like that.
Montserrat and Maria Teresa are two retired friends sitting on a wooden bench on the Rambla de Badalona. Their concern is that of all the neighbours. In the fourth city of Catalonia there is an almost unanimous rejection to the acoustic screens of between three and six meters high that Adif wants to install to reduce the noise of the trains that pass between the promenade and the beach. The reason: they will prevent to see the sea.
The refusal to these walls resonates in the streets, but also in the City Council headed by Xavier García Albiol (PP). Government and opposition reject the proposal of the public company that manages the railway infrastructure because of the visual impact of the panels. In addition, the affected area – about 100 meters of the 1,000 that occupies the promenade – is listed as a Cultural Asset of Local Interest (BCIL). This Sunday the Federation of Neighborhood Associations of Badalona (FAVB) held a protest rally.
From five in the morning until twelve at night convoys pass along the coast of Badalona, with frequencies of five minutes at peak times. The passing of the trains even marks the rhythm of the conversations. When a train passes by, it is quiet and the conversation resumes when it is no longer in sight. “When I was little, my children used to play at saying goodbye to the train”, Montserrat recalls. That’s the way it has always been and that’s the way they want it to be.
All the alarm bells went off on August 14, following a publication in the Official Gazettel del Estado (BOE). There it is announced that the Ministry of Transport intends to expropriate land to various Catalan municipalities to install noise protection. There are 17 municipalities affected, including Tarragona, L’Hospitalet de Llobregat and El Vendrell, as well as Badalona.
Several of the affected municipalities have presented their opposition to the proposal. “An expropriation is the last measure against a land of the City Council. Anyone who knows Badalona knows, it is an aberration,” reproaches Daniel Gracia, deputy mayor of Territory and Sustainability of the City of Badalona.
Representatives of the public company are astonished with the agitation of the municipalities. “I am very surprised that some municipalities say they have learned from the BOE, because it is not so,” explains a spokeswoman for Adif to elDiario.es. Since 2016 the affected towns and cities know that corrective measures must be applied to comply with Spanish law and European regulations on environmental noise.
The data account for the problem. According to the Basic Information System on Noise Pollution (SICA), which prepares noise maps of roads, airports and railway axes of the State, in Badalona the permitted levels are exceeded in sensitive spaces. The Minguella school and the Dane residence exceed by five or ten decibels of noise the 60 allowed during the morning and 50 at night. And in the Rambla also exceeds the noise limit allowed in public space.
Concrete or transparent wall?
While there is consensus on the objective of reducing noise, the methods generate discrepancies. While Adif maintains that the base would be made of concrete or iron and the top part transparent or translucent, Badalona City Council assures that the proposal made by the railway company consists of opaque walls of between three and six meters.
The company does not clarify the exact measures of each of the parts of these screens. “They will be variable and in principle will be adaptable to the municipality,” they argue. “We want there to be consensus, but the law is the law, we have to comply with it,” they say. The tenders for the works are already scheduled, but are not yet published or awarded to any company, says Adif.
The City Council has commissioned the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) to study alternatives to the Adif proposal. Jordi Romeu, a researcher at the UPC’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, explains that he has proposed to the city council the installation of low screens, less than a meter high, very close to the train tracks, unlike the Adif screens, which are much higher and farther away from the rails. “A very similar result can be achieved,” says Romeu. These walls of about 70 centimeters high are used in the Nordic countries and Russia, and pilot tests are being carried out in France, Germany, Switzerland and Japan.
Another of the possibilities that Romeu points out would be to install sound reducers on the sides of the track, but Adif defends its proposal. “Taking into account the time and cost of acoustic screens, they are the most efficient solution,” they say. On the other hand, the UPC researchers argue that their proposal is less expensive, because less materials are used and because there is no need to expropriate land from local councils, as well as being applicable to the entire coastline.
Last week García Albiol met with the president of Adif, María Luisa Domínguez. The meeting resulted in a commitment to agree on a solution to reduce the noise of the train but at the same time protect the iconic promenade of Badalona. They talk about “working immediately” on the alternatives proposed by the UPC.
Meanwhile, the noise of the train does not frighten the customers of the bars and restaurants of the Rambla. What does cause real fear to the restaurateurs are the acoustic screens of Adif. “If we put these fences will affect us to trade, because to see the sea to see a wall is very different,” says Rosa Roca, owner of the horchatería Fillol. “The screens would remove the noise, but we would not see the sea, as beautiful as it is,” says Nieves Peinado, who walks with her husband along the Rambla. They both want their favourite walk to continue to be accompanied by the sea breeze and not by an impassable wall.