Sánchez cedes to the Basque Country the construction of the AVE underground accesses to Vitoria and Bilbao

The PNV has wrested from the Government of Pedro Sánchez, in the framework of the budget negotiation, the management of the high-speed access to Bilbao and Vitoria and also the burial of both stations. Basque nationalists have branded this Friday as a “milestone” the agreement reached with the Executive of Sanchez, which, however, was already broadly closed since early November, when it was announced by the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sanchez, in an appearance in Vitoria. “We said that we would not accept second-rate solutions, and that is what we have achieved,” said Aitor Esteban at an event held at the Vitoria train station in which he tried to show his muscle in the face of the growing influence of EH Bildu in Madrid. The Basque Minister of Territorial Planning, Housing and Transport, Iñaki Arriola, is, however, a socialist.

Urkullu endorses the provisional arrival of the AVE to Bilbao and Vitoria to give an end to a 1992 project that has been under construction since 2006.

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The spokesman of the ‘jeltzales’ in the Congress of Deputies, who has been accompanied by Andoni Ortuzar, Estefanía Beltrán de Heredia and José Antonio Suso, has announced that the Basque institutions will be in charge of carrying out the necessary works to build the accesses and to bury the stations, and that it will be done through a management assignment. Meanwhile, in the case of Bilbao, the train will stop in Basauri and then passengers will have to take a Cercanías train to get to Indalecio Prieto station. In the case of Vitoria, although the high-speed train will reach Eduardo Dato station, it will be at the beginning still without underground. Once the agreement has been signed, both city councils must now sign the protocols governing the entrustment, a formula that in Gipuzkoa is already making it possible to build the accesses to Donostia. In short, it allows the Basque Railway Administrator, Euskal Trenbide Sarea (ETS), to award the works and supervise the building works, while the State continues to finance the works by means of a discount in the Quota that is paid every year. “We are getting closer and closer. We continue”, has congratulated the mayor of Vitoria, Gorka Urtaran, in a message spread through Twitter.

Esteban has illustrated with this agreement the fact that the PNV has fulfilled “the three objectives it had set itself at the beginning of the budget negotiations”. “The full management of the Minimum Vital Income for Basque institutions, finally channel the TAV in Vitoria and Bilbao and improve the budget through amendments with investments for Euskadi and Navarre, in addition to expanding social protection for citizens,” he listed. The ‘jeltzales’ thus try to pull muscle against an EH Bildu that in recent dates has been gaining influence in Madrid, which, in part, has caused the PNV to stop being decisive, as Sanchez already had enough support to move forward its accounts for next year without the need to guarantee their votes. In any case, nationalists and socialists govern in coalition in Euskadi. The PNV, however, has stressed on more than one occasion that the issues it is negotiating in Madrid are of greater importance than those for which the Basque coalition led by Arnaldo Otegi is fighting. “Between the transfer of the IMV or if we close the underground entrances and in good conditions of the train to the Basque capitals and what Bildu has achieved, there is no color,” said Ortuzar last Sunday at the general assembly held by his formation in the BEC in Barakaldo, as reported by Europa Press.

The Mayor of Vitoria, Gorka Urtaran (PNV), who has appeared this Friday at the City Council, has been “very satisfied” with the agreement, which he considers that it will be beneficial for the city and that it clears “all kinds of doubts” about the arrival of the high-speed train. According to Europa Press, he pointed out that “this agreement allows the best possible way to guarantee the arrival of the high-speed train to Vitoria, guaranteeing its underground access and doing it as soon as possible thanks to the entrusting of management to the Basque Government”. His Bilbao counterpart, Juan Mari Aburto, also from the PNV, has also expressed his “happiness” for an agreement he has described as “very important”. “An agreement has been reached, through a management contract, to build the entrance tunnel to the city and the underground station. That means that the project has no way back,” he said, although he has avoided setting a date, as he considers that there have already been “excessive delays and frustrations”.

Pamplona, pending

The bulk of the agreement, however, was already closed at least a month ago. In an appearance on November 4, the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, and the Basque Minister for Transport, Iñaki Arriola, announced that, although Bilbao and Vitoria will have proThe Basque Country would assume the construction of the definitive accesses and that these would be buried underground. It was understood at that time that the undergrounding was not compatible with the promise of having the so-called ‘Basque Y’ ready in 2026. The lehendakari himself, Iñigo Urkullu, had to endorse this provisional arrival in order not to delay even more a project that dates back to 1992 and whose works began in 2006. In that joint appearance in early November, the minister stressed the importance of moving forward with the general budget to implement these projects. “The Spanish Government’s commitment to the Basque Country is absolute,” she said at the time.

Once these points have been closed, however, the connection with Pamplona is still pending. This connection, which aims to link with Zaragoza through the capital of Navarre, is one of the three planned for the ‘Basque Y’, but it has not yet been specified whether it will arrive there through Vitoria or Gipuzkoa. As this newspaper published, the State budgets anticipated a possible connection through Vitoria, as they included an item of about 300 million euros for the connection with Pamplona assigned to the province of Alava and zero to the province of Gipuzkoa. The delegate of the Spanish Government in Euskadi, Denis Itxaso, came out to clarify that this item does not imply that it is still decided that there will be AVE Vitoria-Pamplona. In a recent interview with elDiario.es/Navarra, the Mayor of Pamplona, Enrique Maya (UPN), stressed his preference for the high-speed train to arrive through Ezkio-Itxaso in Gipuzkoa. “Of course, going through Vitoria is a terrible roundabout and what is more, it is an absolute threat that it will not end up in Pamplona”, he pointed out.


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