We favour a route about 8 kilometres long and a tram journey between 15 and 20 minutes, said Sebastià Mijares i Verdú, AndRail President

In 2021, the Andorran government carried out a study of public transport needs, which recommended the introduction of a tram in the centre of Andorra by 2030 as the best solution. As a result, at the end of 2023, the government of Andorra launched a second study, informally called a “preliminary project” being prepared by Suport Engineers and Euroconsult that aims to define the route and study the characteristics and budget of the tram launch.

The ongoing study results should be delivered to the government in late 2024 or early 2025.

AndRail is a civil society association that insists that the study reflects the best proposal for a tram line in Andorra. AndRail is campaigning to demonstrate that the tram is not only a technically viable and necessary solution, but also benefits from broad social support. AndRail President Sebastià Mijares i Verdú believes that the public transport Andorra needs is a centralized tram and explains why:

“The electrification of transport is an imperative of the energy transition. In our case, it is clearly a postponed topic: only 1% of Andorra’s mobile fleet is made up entirely of electric vehicles, or less than 2% if you consider hybrids. I will not assess whether this stagnation in the electrification of the mobile fleet can be reversed and therefore whether we will see an increase in these percentages anytime soon. But I can estimate that replacing this mobile fleet with electric vehicles would cost more than €3.2bn (about 92,000 vehicles without recharging).

This calculation is based on the difference between the average price of an electric car (~€35,000) and the average price of a conventionally fueled car (~€24,000) in Spain. The average age of Andorra’s mobile fleet is approximately 15 years. Therefore, the €2,200,000,000,000 to €3,200,000,000,000 that this renewal entails (in current prices) spread over 15 years, would amount to between €147,000,000,000 and €213,000,000,000 for every year that society spends to buy new cars.

The tram is a means of transportation that is widespread around the world – and in particular in Europe, where services of this kind are everywhere in cities with populations similar to Andorra’s, including mountainous places and places with cold and snow winter. In a way, the fact that a country like Andorra does not have a railway service is an anomaly: we are the only country on the continent that does not have and has never had a railway. Is this project realistic? What is unrealistic is to keep going without it!

Andorra is a mountainous country, as are Switzerland and Austria, the two countries with the most railways (trams in particular) in the world. We are not talking about a tram going up to the top of Comapedrosa, but rather serving urban areas where topography is not a significant obstacle at all, like in Innsbruck, Zurich, Neuchâtel, or Lausanne.

We favour a route that is about 8 kilometres long and a tram journey between 15 and 20 minutes.

To ensure fast service, it is important that all or almost all of the route is double-tracked. In some sections, the line should run in one location and its alternative in another. Variations at specific locations along the route are possible: the route follows one, the other, or both sides in the same direction. We have shared this route recommendation with the government and engineers working on the preliminary design.

With respect to the design engineers and their work, we are not announcing the current projected cost. According to the already published government study for 2021, this tram system is estimated to cost 170 million euros (including infrastructure, rolling stock, etc.). These costs can be significantly reduced by reducing the impact of infrastructure – making it on the surface rather than underground in some sections, and doing away with viaducts at street level, for example. Savings can be made by using classical electrification (with catenary) instead of more expensive alternatives such as ground power supply or batteries, which only solve aesthetic aspects.

I don’t have the expertise to assess the direction of electric transport in general. It is undeniable that Andorra today is a country where the car is a necessity, as its absence is an obstacle to moving around comfortably.

The cars have a very large spatial impact: every 20 square metres of Andorra la Vella is dedicated to parking, and 70% of public space is dedicated to cars.

We need a competitive and high-performance alternative that allows at least a large part of society to be independent of the car, as in hundreds of cities in Europe.

The electrification of Andorra’s car parks is a complete failure at the moment. I cannot assess the reasons, but I can say this: it is much less costly for society and the state and more efficient to introduce the tram in Andorra than to replace the entire car fleet with 100% electric vehicles. And thousands of citizens will thus have a reliable public transport means that will move away from the need to have one car for each adult member of the family, as is the case today.

In the grave economic crisis in which we find ourselves, the absence of a tram in Andorra means an increase in the cost of maintaining a car, which stifles everyone’s purchasing power. If the tram, being a more practical and reliable public transport option, enables the purchase of 8% fewer cars (e.g. families no longer need 2 or more cars), society will save €176-256 million over 15 years, which is more than the budget for its commissioning”.

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