UP to 200 homeowners and hoteliers have met to discuss ways to oppose a scheme that would ‘destroy’ tourism in Ronda’s popular Llano de la Cruz valley.
The group – who are setting up a platform against the project – heard how a planned rail link would primarily be for freight trains, which ‘could run four times an hour day and night’.
“This would effectively destroy a strong and important tourist sector not just for Ronda but for the whole of Andalucia,” said local British resident Ray Ward.
“Why would anyone come and stay in this valley to be kept up all night?”
The new line will be part of the so-called Meditteranean Corridor, which is part of a European-wide scheme to move freight faster and more efficiently through the continent.
It will link the deep water port of Algeciras with Rotterdam, Hamburg and even further north in Finland and Russia.
“We believe that much of the cost is being paid by some of the big freight companies and even China in order to get its goods into Europe quicker,” said one speaker.
“This could mean 700m-long freight trains rumbling through the valley 24 hours a day.
“Of course we support green initiatives, but not at the cost of destroying our valley.
“An obvious solution is to put the whole section underground in a tunnel.”
The meeting was held on the day that the chief of China’s $410 billion Chinese Investment Corporation told the Financial Times that it would start investing in EU railway and infrastructure projects from next year.
The group – that comprises a mix of Spanish and northern European expats – believe that promises of bringing the AVE fast track trains to Ronda and Algeciras is ‘nothing more than a sweetener’ to push plans through.
Some of the group believe that a so-called ‘preferred’ option beside the existing track – which would also be damaging – is merely a smokescreen.
“For starters the chosen route ends in Ronda, with no clear plan on how the trains would then go from there down to La Indiana and then Algeciras,” explained Ward.
“Meanwhile the other route published, route 3, gets from Antequera to La Indiana directly.
“They are not matching like for like. It does not make sense.”
Others were angry that government intentions were released with none of those directly affected warned.
Indeed, it was only after the Olive Press sent out photos of the possible ‘alternative route 3’ that many of them found out.
At least a dozen houses will be bulldozed and nearly two dozen hotels and ‘turismo rurales’ will be seriously affected.
The impact to local tourism will be huge with one estimate claiming a loss of millions of euros spent in the area, per year.
It is understood the town halls of Ronda and Arriate are already opposing the route, while the local IU party has spoken out.
Interested parties only have until December 23 to enter their allegations.
Numerous celebrities and dignitories have stayed in the valley, including actor Adrien Brody, DJ Fatboy Slim, bullfighters including Cayetano and Fran Rivera.
Even British Prime Minister David Cameron came for a holiday two years ago.
One local hotelier Andy Chapell, whose hotel Molino del Santo is not even affected by the scheme, turned up to offer support.
“It is a fantastically important area for wildlife and tourism,” he explained. “If there is a way to minimise the impact by using a tunnel, then planners and politicians must insist on it.
“We do not have the right to ruin an area of outstanding beauty if it can be avoided. The livelihoods and quality of life of local residents – and the many visitors who delight in its natural peace – must be respected.
“We must use technical abilities to the full to save what can never be replaced.”