It is enough to read any clothing or appliance label to realize that everything, or almost everything, is manufactured far from home. That is why it is surprising that the new carriages of the Barcelona metro they are being assembled by people with names as familiar as Gerard, Jordi, Óscar, Víctor, Pedro, David or Josep. They are part of the assembly line of the plant that Alstom is 20 minutes from Barcelona, ​​in Santa Perpetua de Mogodawhere the French company is building the future suburban of the Catalan capital after winning, in July 2019, the largest contract in the history of the city’s underground: no more and no less than 50 trains for lines 1 and 3. They maintain that They are more accessible and digital, and that will allow progress in the asbestos removal in the underground public transport network.

A site visit of this magnitude is undoubtedly another symptom of the recovery of some normalcy. The president of Barcelona Metropolitan Transport (TMB), Laia Bonet, has commanded the entourage that has departed early on Monday for these huge hangars that are a gigantic Lego construction of wagons in seven meticulous phases. She accompanied the also councilor for Mobility, the president and CEO of the Alstom Group in Spain and Portugal, Leopold Maestuwho explained that the command of the public transport company has been “a hop on the subway designs“, since TMB’s requirements “have made it possible to give a qualitative leap in manufacturing”. In terms of technology and, above all, in terms of accessibility for people with some type of disability.

Along with ONCE

Barcelona is already one of the cities with the most accessible metro in Europe (nearly 95% of the stations are) and now, sources from the firm point out, a step further is being taken by adapting the wagon so that all passengers can move comfortably. The ONCE Foundation, in fact, has collaborated with TMB so that no group is left out of the underground. The doors and corridors will be wider, the four spaces for people with reduced mobility they will be sensorized and their closest doors will open automatically at all stops. The new wagons also include real time video surveillanceUSB charging points (now only available on L2) and screens that will allow more information to be provided than is currently being offered, such as information on the location of the elevators at the next station.

The 50 new trains will start running in June and the deployment will be carried out in phases, with two units per month, one for L3 and one for L1. In the summer of 2023, a year before the centenary of the inauguration of the first metro line in Barcelona, ​​they should all be circulating. Regardless of technology and accessibility, the withdrawal of the old series 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 (the new ones are the 7,000 and 8,000) will allow eliminate the presence of asbestos in the rolling stock of the metro network. And also, Bonet highlighted, there is good news for the environment, since this investment of 318.85 million euros will reduce 17,000 tons of CO2, thanks to its lower need for maintenance, a saving of 6% of the energy consumption and to the recovery of the energy generated by the trains themselves.

Alstom won the public tender in July 2019. The initial command was 42 trains for an amount of 268 million euros, but according to a TMB spokesperson, the contract itself allowed the order to be increased by 20%. That’s where these eight new trains leave from – the extension was signed in December 2020– to reach the 50 that will come out of this huge factory located in Santa Perpètua de Mogoda. The initial 42 were intended for the withdrawal of the 3,000 and 4,000 series and the remaining eight allow retire the 2,000 series and leave two more to expand the L3 fleet.

No driver…?

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The fifty trains ordered from Alstom will also arrive with important changes in the cabin, which, according to a TMB spokesperson, was designed together with the unions of the metro company to be as practical, comfortable and efficient as possible. To questions from the journalists, the director of the underground, Oscar Playa, explained that the locomotives that are being manufactured incorporate the technology that would allow them to work without drivers. “But that is something – she has hastened to clarify – that is not in the portfolio now.” And if he were, with him Mobile World Congress on the face of it, it wouldn’t be a good time to announce it.

All of this is happening at a time of frank and progressive recovery of the use of public transport after almost two years of certain hardships that have gone from more to less. 2020 closed with a loss of 50% of the passage, while 2021 ended with a growth of 27.6%, but at 68% of the operation of 2019, when the record of validations with 627.3 million trips. In the long term, TMB is working with the goal that by 2025, 65% of trips around the city will be made by public transport, 10% more than before the pandemic.

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