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    When the first plans were aired for a funicular railway in Gibraltar some time ago, the ESG did not dismiss the concept out of hand. It suggested at the time that any such infrastructure should be very carefully considered if it would try and improve our current transport systems on the Rock. An ESG committee member went so far as to have a discussion with the potential investor to see if the initial proposal could be developed to accommodate local as well as tourist traffic, cutting back on road congestion, pollution, and overall environmental impact. This never got very far.

    After a period of silence on this issue the ESG is surprised to see a second and similar proposal for a funicular railway coming forward as it does at such a busy time of the year and regrets the lack of opportunity, given the time frame, for proper public consultation and participation.

    The group acknowledges the amount of work that has evidently been invested in the substantive environmental statement that accompanies the plans, but has not been swayed by any of the positive arguments put forward. The Environmental statement itself indicates a negative 7 overall score!. The funicular railway would serve as an additional tourist facility that would detract from our natural environment whilst setting an alarming precedent for further urbanisation in the Upper Rock area in the future. As the environmental statement rightly indicates, “the development of the upper station will have a substantial negative effect on the Upper Rock.” The visual impacts of the Upper terminal building by nature of its elevated location, form and mass, would be more widely seen and impact more heavily on high sensitivity viewpoints than the route of the funicular railway itself. The result would be a significant negative impact on the widely recognisable appearance of the Rock of Gibraltar.

    The Environmental Statement highlights the “lack of traffic data and modelling in Gibraltar “(non-existent).

    An example of significance, but merely one of many, is that the traffic movement calculated to be created through the construction process over a five month period is set at : 144 total truck movements per day (18 two way movements per hour! or one every three minutes!!) using 5 ton trucks for eight hour days, 5 days per week. The document states that impact from this on the lower station (near and on Corral Road) is considered to be big but impossible to enumerate given the lack of traffic data. It is clear, however, that the impact from such significant vehicle movements will not only impact the Corral Road area, but would also have significant repercussions on traffic congestion generally on Gibraltar’s roads.

    There are other issues such as considerations given to localised impact on people and their quality of life due to noise and air pollution from blasting of tunnels and various construction processes as well as the mayhem that the lower station will cause particularly in the early stages.

    Similarly the paper also mentions an inability to access the “Upper Rock Management Plan” or details of the protection status of the “Upper Rock Nature Reserve. The ESG considers that urgent publication of such important information is necessary and could protect this important area of the Rock from this proposed urbanisation and any other future attempts at commercial development in the Upper Rock area.

    The ESG reiterates its call for our Government to produce an updated development plan for Gibraltar to ensure that clear and practical guidelines are set for all activity and development to be carried out sensibly and with full implications understood well ahead of time. To achieve this, sufficient time has to be allowed for interested members of the public to look over any plans.

    The ESG has today lodged an objection directly with the Planning Commission against the funicular transit system project.