This time this blog is more of a short local news article.
Down our way it came to public attention that an abandoned railway station, some 115 years old, has been demolished without even a “by your leave”.
The Rigüela station is on the old railway line from San Juan, in Sevilla, to Santa la Olalla del Cala in the Sierra de Aracena. A Contramano, a pro-cyclist association in Sevilla, have said that they are investigating if the station was demolished legally and also who is responsible for the demolition.
The line itself was opened at the beginning of the 20th century and was almost 100km long with 11 stations along its length and two adjoining branch lines. It was closed in 1955 and the track lifted in 1960.
What has all this to do with cycling ?
Well the old line between San Juan and Cala has been earmarked for conversion to a via verde for many years now. “Via Verdes” (Green Ways) are a national network of old railway lines which have been converted to traffic free foot/cycle paths and bridleways. Andalcia boasts quite a few of these via verdes all of which are well worth a ride. (I plan to write a longer blog about vias verdes in the future).
It is obvious that with this line’s great length and the wonderful surrounding Andalusian sierras which it crosses, this old trackbed would make a spectacular via verde. There are many local cycling and rambling groups which have pushed for the project. There has been, for some brief moments, some modest interest demonstrated from the authorities and entities responsible for these types of projects, however they have really dragged their feet with these plans.
Sections of the line are in use by cyclists.
A brief section of the line has indeed already been converted to a via verde, the Via Verde de El Ronquillo. It is a very short section of the total line, at just under 10kms, which runs alside the Rivera de Huelva. It is a very popular route with all sorts of cyclists as it is well conditioned and easy to ride. There are parts of the line to the north of the sierra that have been used in mountain bike races and sportifs.
Other sections of the line are well used by cyclists, but on an informal basis. Where access is still available to the old track bed, mountain bikers are a common site. It is not without its inconveniences as some sections are difficult or impassable because some of the old infrastructure such as bridges are unsafe or simply dismantled. One section of the line will never be recuperated in its original form as it has been submerged under a reservoir. Illegal occupation of the track bed by local landowners is also a problem as some sections have been illegally fenced off making access to a public right of way difficult.
As you adventurous cyclists will well understand, such a wonderful route through the sierras is too good to miss, and part of the adventure of this old trackbed sat within these beautiful landscapes is happening upon the old railway buildings dotted along the route. You will then understand the great disappointment felt by the local cycling fraternities when the demolition of Rigüela station was discovered.
Demonstrations and new impetus.
The abandonment of the protected Rigüela station to its fate has been felt to represent the general disinterest by the powers-that-be in the plan for a via verde.
A mass of some 300 mountain bikers and ramblers was organised to protest against the demolition and to bring a new impetus to the demands that the whole of the line should finally be converted to a via verde. The peloton rode along a section of the track bed from El Ronquillo eastwards towards the site of the old station. It was organised by various associations such as A Contramano, the Plataforma Ibérica por los Caminos Públicos en Andalucía, Ecologistas en Acción as well local cycling groups.
This has been an amazing response to the disappointing story of the Rigüela buildings. Let’s hope that the call to action and new impetus for the making the via verde will be heeded this time. It would be a truly magical 100km of riding which could be enjoyed by all.
Some Links (in Spanish)
This is a very good blog documenting the current status of the line, the work being done to protect it and reopen it to cyclists.
And here is a historical account of the line for those who maybe interested.