ON JULY 12 the President of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Jordi Pujol, announced that a rack railway will be built between Monistrol and Monserrat at a cost of Pts6·6bn. Construction is to get under way immediately, with opening envisaged by the spring of 2002.

An Abt rack railway to Monserrat was opened in October 1892, but closed in 1957 following a serious accident four years earlier. Reinstatement has been proposed on several occasions, but tourist traffic to the mountain-top monastery has grown to the point where it is creating an unacceptable environmental impact. The new railway is expected to handle 1150000 passengers/year, or 46% of all visitors. Around 40000 extra journeys will be generated on the connecting FGC Barcelona - Manresa line.

The 5 km line will start from the FGC station at Monistrol-Enllaç, and cross the Llobregat river to join the former alignment. Trains will run by adhesion as far as the intermediate station at Monistrol-Vila, where park-and-ride accommodation will be provided for over 1000 cars and 100 coaches. They will then switch to rack operation for the climb to Monserrat. The line will be single track with an intermediate loop, allowing 15 min interval services at peak hours conveying 1350 passengers/h.

A fleet of five electric railcars is envisaged, based on the SLM designed sets in use on the Ribes - Nuria line. These will be able to run over FGC tracks to reach the existing workshops. The route will be controlled from the existing FGC operations centre at Saint Boi, which runs the Llobregat-Anoia line. n