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Even if it were only as a penance, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez should arrive in Barcelona this Friday via the R2 South line that links Sant Vicenç de Calders with the Catalan capital, a service seriously affected by a fire at the Gavà signal box that has meant tens of thousands of people are forced to go through an authentic ordeal everyday. It has been nothing new over recent years for Barcelona to be affected by rail incidents of different levels of severity and there is a debate, always highly politicized, about whether the economic investment made by the Spanish transport ministry is sufficient or not amid the permanent claim from Catalonia that the service be handed over to the government of the Generalitat, something that does have enough consensus, the conditioning factor usually erected when some proposal does not appeal in Madrid. It is fine that Sánchez is coming to mobilize voters in support of Jaume Collboni, but with results, prime minister, not with promises!

We are not talking about a problem that will be solved in a matter of days, but about an aggravation that will go on for weeks, with the always elusive government in Madrid trying again and again to block the debate. Barcelona is not, and I say it with the utmost respect, the Pobla de Segur and someone will have to stick their neck out and do something to turn around the current situation. In part, it is surely that the politicians are basically capital city-dwellers and, therefore, less affected, since I cannot believe that they would have such a lukewarm attitude towards this issue if they were all among the direct users. It is true that they spit out a lot of rhetoric on the subject, but it is wasted breath and Madrid knows how to give Catalan politicians enough leash so that they end up forgetting until the next incident prompts them to start the protests again.

But of course, the Sánchez government's populist policy of offering free rail tickets is easier than solving the problem. What's the point of getting a free ride if the service doesn't work properly? There is none, but it shuts people up and things seem to be happening. And that's where we are. In the third extension of a decision, adopted at the end of 2022, that causes trains to be full to overflowing in many time slots. Free, yes. And universal, as if those who have limited resources and use the train to get to work have a need that is the same as those who use it for leisure and could perfectly afford it. But of course, doing it like that is easier and, who knows, electorally more salable than including conditions. It is like the 100 euro grant for primary school supplies that the Catalan government is making available next year, also universal and having a total cost of 50 million euros. Although there is a debate about the broken promise implied by the fact that it is half of what was announced, the really dangerous thing is that those who need it as essential school assistance end up receiving the same amount as those who will end up spending it on other things, since it is superfluous for them.

Public spending needs to be controlled more strictly, because the announcements end up being lost in the wind and the real objective is not pursued at all diligently. We must demand that governments deliver not hand-outs or universal aid but an efficient system that helps the most needy or those who have the most difficulties. And they must also solve problems, especially when they are chronic. There needs to come a time when we will stop talking about the problems of the Rodalies rail service or, at least, when we have those responsible so close at hand that they cannot avoid giving a definitive solution to the problem. This will take time, as our politicians have not wanted or known how to turn the key to unlock the asset transfer, and thus in the meantime, let's have Pedro Sánchez entering Barcelona on a Rodalies train every time he comes to the Catalan capital. This should be his penance.