Adif gives Catalonia cold shoulder, spends well below budget

In stark contrast with other Spanish regions, Adif has only spent 26 per cent of the total amount earmarked for Catalonia

In Spain’s 2015 budget (PGE) the Spanish government had set aside €118m for Adif (1) to invest in Catalonia, yet only a quarter of that was actually been spent (€31). In an unprecedented disclosure move, last week Madrid revealed the sum that it actually spent in 2015 out of the total initially budgeted for investment in Catalonia. It is a figure that fully justifies the complaint that every Catalan government —regardless of its political colour— has been repeating for decades as if it were a mantra: Spain actually spends very little on infrastructures in Catalonia.

Up until 2015, the report that details Spain’s public spending per region only used to show how much was actually spent out of the total amount approved in the budget of every ministry, but no information was offered about stated-owned companies, such as Adif and Renfe. However, this year’s report does provide that kind of information and some of the figures are particularly revealing. The percentage of the budgeted amount that was actually spent in Catalonia (26,8) is the second lowest in Spain, only a few decimal points higher than Cantabria’s. Renfe’s percentage is even lower than Adif’s (5.1 per cent), but in this case no region was discriminated against, as Renfe underspent just as much countrywide.

Once the figures had been disclosed, Josep Rull —the Catalan minister for Territory and Sustainability— expressed his “outrage” to this newspaper, even though the revelation merely confirmed his suspicions. “Madrid’s budgeted spending in Catalonia is lower than it should be, but the actual amount spent is totally unacceptable. We’re not talking about a 15 per cent deviation, here”, said Rull, who added that this sort of thing erodes the credibility of the state.

What caused the huge gap between the budgeted amount and the actual expenditure? According to Rull’s ministry, in 2015 some railway stations saw works worth a total of roughly €4m, plus another €4m was spent on overhead power cabling. But the Catalan ministry claims that no major works have been carried out. That €8m figure is a small chunk of the €306m that Rull’s predecessor, Santi Vila, managed to extract from his Spanish counterpart Ana Pastor back in 2013 and was suppposed to be spent over a three-year period. Only 2 per cent of the amount has actually been spent in that time. Last year a sum was spent on the works to double the railway line between Vandellòs and Tarragona, but progress has been sluggish: the project was supposed to be finished in 2015, but completion has now been put back to 2017 at the very earliest. The list of works included in the PGE that have actually not been completed is long: works included in the Commuter Network Plan, the third line between Castellbisbal and Tarragona and the railway link with the port of Tarragona.

An Adif spokesperson in Catalonia rejected the Catalan minister’s claims and stated that, while the figures are accurate, “these are cold numbers” and nobody can claim that the only cash spent by Madrid on the commuter network is the €31m shown in the official report. Adif explained that there are other public bodies that also invest in the railway network and it would be a mistake to oversimplify things by merely quoting the 26 per cent figure. For instance, the budget funds allocated to Adif Alta Velocidad (a different state-owned business) cover the Vandellòs-Tarragona bypass which is part of the Mediterranean railway corridor and will benefit regional services, in particular line R16 in Tortosa and Euromed trains. New fibre optics, too, will be used by the commuter train network. In 2015 Adif Alta Velocidad spent 65,7 per cent of the funds it had been allocated in the Spanish budget (€197m out of a total €300m).

Likewise, Adif in Catalonia noted that there is another body —Spain’s Sociedad Estatal de Infraestructuras de Transporte Terrestre (SEITT), another state arm that invests in Spanish road and railway networks— which also contributed a great deal to the rail network by, for example, funding the construction of the railway connection with El Prat airport’s Terminal 1 and the works in the stations of Reus, Caldes de Malavella and Passeig de Gràcia, in Barcelona city. SEITT’s actual spending in Catalonia far exceeded the amount originally budgeted: €120m rather than €72m (165 per cent of its budget).

One could argue that the Spanish government set up SEITT as an instrument to make up for Adif’s regional investment shortcomings, given that Asturias (1,945 per cent) and Cantabria (758 per cent) received much more from this public body than had originally been budgeted; yet the figures do not add up. The Spanish regions that received the most funds than forecast from Adif (Murcia, 478%; Castilla La Mancha, 366%; and Valencia, 194%) also got an “extra bonus” from SEITT.

Minister Rull does not deny that Madrid makes other railway investments apart from Adif’s “but that’s not the issue: the problem is the huge gap between the original budget and actual spending; one must honour one’s commitments”.

“Non-regionalised” spending

The report on regional budget spending includes a chapter on “non-regionalised” investment. In Adif’s case, there was €100m not allocated to any region in particular, a figure that does not make up for the €180m that some regions were shortchanged; even less so when others have received an additional €48m. As for Renfe’s figures, the company’s underspending is not balanced out by the €169m that isn’t assigned to any particular region because the negative deviation of its overall budget for Spain amounts to nearly €400m.

(1) N.T. Adif is a Spanish state-owned enterprise whose job is to manage the railway network in the country.

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