From mayor deprived of his rod to Minister in charge of fighting for all of Spain. Óscar Puente (Valladolid, 1968) will be the head of the Transport portfolio, one of the ministries with the greatest weight both in budgetary terms and in political importance. Although he will not do so under the same conditions as his predecessor Raquel Sánchez, because the recently proclaimed Pedro Sánchez has decided to segregate into two what until now was one of the great elephants of the Spanish administration. Isabel Rodríguez, until now spokesperson for the Government and Minister of Territorial Policy, will be in charge of the Housing and Urban Agenda responsibilities, two key areas for a PSOE that has committed to building more than 100,000 public homes in the next Latura legislature after leave the figure at zero during the current one.
Puente’s name began to be heard in the Moncloa pools after Sánchez granted him the approval to reply to Alberto Núñez Feijóo during his failed investiture. The former mayor of Valladolid, who had been in power since 2015, was one of the great victims of the terrible electoral result of the BloquierDas IN THE ELACCONES LAST May 28, when the PSoe lost a good part of its autonomous and local governments. His candidacy managed to match the 2019 result, but the loss of representation of his Toma La Palabra partners changed the government majority in favor of the right. Finally, the Popular Party candidate, Jesús Julio Carnero, added the votes of the three Vox councilors to his own to take over the leadership.
After his fall, and when he seemed condemned to stay in the Pucelana opposition, Puente was picked up by Sánchez as number one on the PSOE list for Valladolid for the general elections on June 23. The socialists improved their 2019 result by achieving 8,000 more votes and retained their two deputies, equaling the PP. Once the Congress was formed, the PSOE left it in the hands of the former mayor to respond to Feijóo after running as a candidate for president of the Government, something that Pedro Sánchez used to do and which sat very badly on the right. The socialists thus presented Puente’s credentials, a political ‘pitbull’ who has miles of holes open all over Spain ahead of him.
The great challenge: the transfer of Rodalies to Catalonia
The symbiotic relationship between Catalan socialists and nationalists invited Pedro Sánchez to place a representative of the PSC in charge of the former Public Works portfolio. The chosen one was Raquel Sánchez, former mayor of Gavá, who despite the tailwind of European funds, did not manage to deploy the entire ministerial machinery at the pace demanded by her short-lived deadlines. Inside the building there were many voices calling for a radical change that would combine the demands of Catalonia, now intensified by the pacts with ERC and Junts, with those of the rest of the territories, which also demand all types of infrastructure.
Hence, the arrival of Óscar Puente to the new ministries of Madrid has been welcomed by his subordinates, who observe in a REDOCTED figure, with a political bag, sufficient knowledge and who, a priori, seem capable of making controversial decisions, such as those that effect to the future of the Cercanías trains in Catalonia (Rodalies) or the transfers to the PNV, which imply a similar operation with the Bilbao and San Sebastián Cercanías. Both processes, endorsed in the investiture agreement, will be difficult to carry out from a technical point of view and will entail significant political wear in terms of credibility.
Without going any further, the new minister begins with a strike on the railway this Friday, after all the unions agreed to five days of strike (November 24 and 30 and December 1, 4 and 5) to show their opposition. . To the transfer of Cercanías trains to the autonomies. Although the Ministry has tried to appease them, the unions have added fuel to the fire by adding to their demand that the privatization of Renfe Mercancías be paralyzed, another problem that falls into the hands of the new minister.
New investments, free bonuses, weights…
Puente will have in its hands the design of transportation and mobility of the future, both in rural areas and for cities. Although it is assumed that the free passes will be extended to 2024, you will have to decide who will benefit from these discounts from then on. The socialists have agreed with Sumar that these benefits are limited to young people under 24, over 65 and people with low incomes, but it remains to be decided what happens to the worst of travelers, adults.
The new minister also arrives at a vital time to accelerate pending investments, taking advantage of European funds that will be exhausted before the legislature. He will be in charge of completing the railway revolution, with an adif at historical highs in investment and budget execution that could validate the continuity of his direction.
It will also have to deal with a Renfe in restructuring that sees its pie becoming smaller and smaller due to the push of new operators, who are already thinking about the second liberalization of high speed. Added to the toughness of the railway roadmap is the responsibility of designing the model that will bring the weights to the highways before the end of this decade, something that has come out of the commitments with Brussels, but is taken for granted. Its first objective will be to move forward with the Sustainable Mobility Law, which declined with the electoral call and which must decide whether the long-distance bus market is opened to competition.
Advocate of sustainable mobility
Beyond the headlines that the Valladolid deputy may leave, his service record made him a potential candidate to occupy the office that remains vacant on Paseo de la Castellana. If Óscar Puente has boasted about anything these eight years, it is trying to revolutionize mobility in Valladolid, a project that intensified significantly in his second term. His government designed and carried out two projects that have raised a lot of dust in the city: the extension of the network of bike lanes at the cost of taking them away from private vehicles and the updating of its municipal public transport company, Auvasa (Autobuses Urbanos de Valladolid ). SA), to turn it into a comprehensive mobility operator.
Behind this change in policies is not only Puente, but also its own members who do not rule out its team: its mobility councilor, lu, lu IS Vélez, a great connoisseur of the city after holding that position since 1999; and Álvaro Fernández Heredia, manager of Auvasa who directed the Madrid Municipal Transport Company (EMT) during the government of Manuela Carmena. After remodeling this organization from top to bottom, he was fired by José Luis Martínez Almeida. Recaptured by Puente and applying his roadmap to the Valladolid public company, last April he resigned from his position to return to the capital as a Más Madrid candidate for the City Council, today exercising the opposition on the issues of mobility and the environment.
Heredia, Vélez and Puente, mainly, have been responsible for Valladolid becoming an example of good practices in mobility at the national level. They have done it with the help of Auvasa, the company in charge of the Valladolid urban bus network, converted into the manager of all mobility in the hands of the city council. In addition to the buses, there were elevators and public parking spaces, the Biki public bicycle system, completely renovated and which registered record numbers of use last summer, and their parking spaces, Parkibiki. This attempt to completely remodel the city in its urban, operational and administrative aspects did not go unnoticed in Moncloa, which placed the meeting of the Ministers of the Environment of the European Union in the city of Pisuerga to show it as a showcase of the new mobility. than trying to replicate.
The battle to bury the train in Valladolid will be decided in Madrid
To all these changes we must add the main battle of the former mayor’s electoral campaign: the divergent positions regarding the burying of the railway as it passes through Valladolid, a project conceived in 2008 that has never been achieved. Puente has always maintained that an operation like that is unviable due to its high cost – a minimum of 615 million – and its technical difficulties, among which are 6 kilometers of tunnels, another 5 in trenches, 30 hectares of affected land and having to bury the current station about 11 meters underground. “It is not technically or economically viable and we have to tell the people,” he said.
3.- The city is going backwards in key issues such as sustainability. The elimination of cycle lanes and the reduction of the ZBE are announced, measures that will affect mobility and health and that may cause us to lose or have to return European funds. pic.twitter.com/k2yVqzDd3K
– Óscar Puente (@oscar_puente_) September 25, 2023
All these difficulties led the team of the former Valladolid councilor to propose and execute, since 2015, an urban integration of the railway, co-financed between the owner of the infrastructure, Adif, the Junta de Castilla y León and the local council. This project has resulted in the opening of new underpasses or overpasses to save the roads through the different neighborhoods, something that his opponent was not satisfied with in the last elections. The current mayor Jesús Julio Carnero advocates continuing with his intentions to bury the railway, trying to comply with what was the main measure of his electoral program.
But if politics has something, it is the irony that the main interlocutor to be able to carry it out will be Puente himself, of whom last Friday he assured that his appointment as minister “would benefit the project.” The local government made up of PP and Vox has chosen to reduce the size of the low emissions zone and dismantle a good part of the bike lane network designed during the Puente government, which has harshly criticized the measure and could form an entente with the Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, to disavow these decisions, which the left calls regressive.