Since 22 June, train traffic between Ribes de Freser and La Cerdanya has been closed due to the restoration being carried out in the Toses tunnel. To guarantee mobility, Rodalies de Catalunya maintains an alternative road service between Ribes de Freser and Puigcerdà-la Tor de Querol. The official version describes the works as integral to the modernization of the factory work. The announced restoration aims to improve the lining of the hole and the longitudinal drainage on both sides of the road, in order to ensure the stability of the structure, alleviate damage and pathologies detected for some time and minimize the probability of incidents affecting the service, in addition to eliminating the temporary speed limit. The planned investment is 9.5 million euros.
A visit to the site allows you to check that for the works it was necessary to lift the track inside the hole, cut it into 18-meter sections and stack it in various places outside the tunnel. The interior works, according to the BOE of 19 and 20 October, have been awarded to the companies Amberg Infraestructuras SA and Nortúnel SA for 580,000 and 8,941,650 euros, respectively.
The expected date of reopening to train traffic was February 7, 2021, but due to the landslides that occurred during the summer, the rescheduling has been altered and now they give as a date next May, if they do not happen again things. It is worth mentioning that the part of the tunnel near the north mouth -artificial tunnel- presents special difficulties due to the fact that it is superficial. This means that specific pathologies are detected, because the concrete wears out more easily with the leaks and the action of the ice-thawing process.
Adif reports that it allocates all available human and material resources to the restoration work, but a technical source states: “Unfortunately, the Ministry of the Generalitat has been absent in a work that fully affects it.” And he suggests that the opportunity should be taken to restore the monumental portal at the south mouth of the tunnel: “Any day there will be a landslide and they will take the opportunity to demolish it.”
A century saving the pass
Work on the original tunnel began in 1911. Built at kilometer 29,745 of the line from Ripoll to Puigcerdà, between the stations of Sant Cristòfol de Toses and La Molina, the hole number 36 or “long tunnel” of Toses saves the pass of the same name at 400 meters depth. The total length of the work -including the artificial part- is 3,904 meters and within it is located the elevation 1,494, the highest of the line. It is part of the so-called eastern transpirinenc, the highest railway route in Spain in grip and normal width, which has ramps of 41 per thousand and crosses places of great panoramic beauty.
Before work could begin, awarded to a company domiciled in Zaragoza that undertook in a public tender to carry out the works for 6,207,000 pesetas, it was necessary to open a road from Planoles and establish an energy transport line. electric, derived from the one installed by the Sociedad Hidràulica del Freser, in Queralbs, which was necessary to activate the engines and lighting.
Landslides with 30 dead
But digging this tunnel was the biggest obstacle to getting the railway to Puigcerdà. The nature of the terrain, water leaks, weather adversity, and the sudden disappearance of one of the contractors negatively affected a work that became complicated and at some point seemed unsolvable. About thirty workers were killed in the opening work and the number of injured was similar, due to landslides and accidents that were constantly repeated. That is why the infrastructure for drilling had to have a hospital in Toses itself.
In one day, April 14, 1914, four deaths were recorded. The most spectacular casualties were that of the director of the works, Hilario Jesús Retuerta Toledano, a native of Almonacid de Zurita (Guadalajara), and that of the doctor from Lleida, Miquel Castells Ferrer, who had gone there as a matter of relief. The first had approached the transformer and was electrocuted “ by high voltage current ”, Which involuntarily killed the second. The popular version of these deaths on May 5, 1916 explains that Retuerta committed suicide because he did not foresee the success of the company in charge of the contract. He was buried in Toses himself.
Dissolved the company that had formed Corsini, Retuerta and Bruned, which had begun work in December 1911, the state took over the direct construction while working on other sections of the line. The final warming could not be celebrated until February 28, 1919, that is, seven years and three months after the start of the works. In this way, the train that had inaugurated the first route to Ribes de Freser in August 1919 was able to open the circulation of convoys between Ribes and La Molina in July 1922 and from La Molina to Puigcerdà in October 1922. .
The definitive connection with the French network and the station of the Tower of Querol-Enveig, due to the difficulties suffered by France during World War I, had to wait until July of 1929, date in which was inaugurated also the electrification of the line. For the inhabitants of La Cerdanya and Ripollès, the train represented an undeniable improvement for local communications, commercial activities and mountain tourism.
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