Six months on from Velez-Malaga council pulling the plug on their loss-making tram system, the mayor has announced that the trams themselves are to be sold or leased to a train operator in Sydney in Australia. The decision was taken after the regional government, the Junta de Andalucia, made it clear that they would not be making funds available to continue to operate the tram.
The mayor, Francisco Delgado Bonilla, has said that there has been an offer on the table, since October of last year, from the manufacturer of the trams CAF to rent the trams to Sydney. He has said that “given that the Junta does not want to make good on its promises, the best thing to do is accept this offer to lease the tram units” pointing out that the trams are simply sitting unused losing value. Despite the trams not running, Velez-Malaga council still has to pay a ticket subsidy to the operator, a subsidy which can be reduced once the trams have gone.
As part of the lease agreement Sydney will have an option to buy the trams. The mayor went on to say that even if the deal was done to sell the trams to the Australians, the Velez tram could be put back into service with new rolling stock from Skoda or Alstom. The Mayor has not said how much it would cost to dig up the tracks and tarmac over them instead as a money saving measure.
The trams cost €8m to purchase as part of the €35m total cost of the 4.7km long tram system back in 2006, which was never even completely opened before being shut down due to lack of funds. The tram system was conceived during an era of cheap money, when seemingly every town in Spain had to have its own vanity project.
There are of course worse things than a tram system with no trams. In Valencia, the newly built €150m Castellón airport was declared open in March 2011 – to date no planes have taken off or landed at the airport.