Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Tolls By Another Name

It has occurred to me that it is somewhat ironic that the Council of Mallorca can insist on "rescuing" the Sóller Tunnel (at a cost of fifteen million euros, if it's lucky) while at the same time it can sanction an event like Mallorca 312 and also be marching forward in wishing to limit traffic in parts of the island.

The "rescue" - it is always referred to as "rescate", albeit this could also mean recovery - is on behalf of the citizens, and not only those in Sóller. The citizens and their cars will be rescued from having to pay a toll that doesn't apply anywhere else and will thus be able to use all roads in Mallorca in a free and unfettered fashion. In the process, if some anxieties are confirmed, the elimination of the toll will mean that Sóller will "collapse" because of the volume of cars.

While the Council doesn't itself appear to be unduly alarmed at the prospect of Sóller collapsing, it shares concerns about collapse elsewhere. Which will be why it enabled 312 to go ahead and generate collapse - in the form of being cut-off - for several hours in places like Deià. Still, only for one day as they say: until the next time.

Fortunately, it doesn't appear that anyone in Deià was needing to be rescued while the roads were closed. Just as well really, as the fire service (Council-run) would have sent its tenders roaring along the narrow roads and eliminated good numbers of 312 participants.

Meanwhile, the other great controversy of the moment (apart from various other ones, such as the Més contracts, holiday rentals and what have you) has risen to the top of the debating agenda. Yes, it's those roads again, and specifically the ones for accessing quiet, unspoiled coves or promontories with fine views. It may not be the Council doing the closing, but denying access to non-residents in a part of Santanyi sounds very much like a reverse principle of the tunnel's rescue. The citizens will not be able to use all roads in a free and unfettered fashion, because the town hall won't let them.

If the citizens wish to get to the coves - s'Almonia and Moro - they will instead, once they get the bus operating, have to park in Santanyi's industrial estate and then pay for the shuttle. Then pay for the return trip. Hmm, it almost sounds like they'll be having to pay a toll, just as they may well have to in order to access other parts of the island in the future in addition to Es Trenc, for which they already have to pay.

While the situation with the shuttle buses in Santanyi seems to have caused little institutional fuss (apart from the slight issue of there not yet being a bus), this cannot be said for Escorca, Manacor or Valldemossa. None of the town halls have been properly consulted or informed by the Council. The mayor of Escorca, speaking about the Council's announcement that it is thinking of stopping vehicles entering Sa Calobra (and having a shuttle bus from somewhere - and "where" would be a good question), says that the Council has demonstrated "irresponsibility". It has made its announcement without any consensual agreement.

It's the same story in Valldemossa regarding access to the port, while in Manacor (for Cala Varques), the mayor says there's been no dialogue. He doesn't know where the shuttle bus would leave from or where it would drop people off.

The Council, and specifically its councillor for land, Mercedes Garrido, was going on about shuttle buses last year. Another one she was eyeing up was for the Es Comú part of the beach in Playa de Muro. At the time she mentioned this, Muro's mayor said that it was an idea worth looking into but had received no information. He's still waiting. As will be the mayor of Santa Margalida, given that Can Picafort would be a more likely location for a park and ride scheme to service the beach.

So, the Council is merrily going around, coming up with ideas for shuttle buses that town halls have no idea of and which will imply charges to citizens. At the same time, they're rescuing the tunnel. There may well be a very good need for restricting traffic in certain parts of the island, but I'm afraid the Council's logic is contrary.

Instead of announcing shuttle bus plans in a piecemeal manner, there is clearly the need for a coherent debate that involves town halls, regional government and others. There are parts of the island that cannot cope with the traffic and the numbers of people. This is becoming abundantly clear, and it isn't just because of tourists. Residents, the citizens, go to these beaches just as much if not more than tourists. Tolls by the backdoor may be the only solution, but a proper debate needs to be had.

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