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Inside Spain: Underwater train to Morocco and long waits to see a doctor

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
Inside Spain: Underwater train to Morocco and long waits to see a doctor
The initial plan is for the tunnel linking Spain to Morocco to be completed by 2030, but there is no official agreement yet. Image render: SECEGSA

In this week’s Inside Spain we look at the plans for an underwater train linking Spain to Morocco, and why waits to see a doctor this summer are expected to be worse than ever.

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Inside Spain is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in Spain that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday but members can receive it earlier in their inbox by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

It may seem outlandish, but if the Channel Tunnel was possible, why not an underwater train across the Strait of Gibraltar?

This megaproject has been in the pipeline since 1989 but the prospect of Madrid and Casablanca being linked by rail now is apparently more feasible than ever. 

Last March, Spanish Transport Minister Oscar Puente was in Rabat for talks with the Moroccan government which included discussing the possibility of jointly developing a 40-km tunnel from Spain’s most southern tip to the north African nation. 

A total of 27.7 kms between Tangiers and Punta Paloma (Tarifa, Cádiz) would have to be built not just under water but under the sea bed, the same excavation method used for the Channel Tunnel, and the one found to be the safest, less invasive for marine traffic and for the environment.

Proposed undersea tunnel connecting Spain and Morocco. Graph: SECEGSA

The initial plan is to have the underwater trains running in time for the 2030 World Cup, which will be held in Spain, Portugal and Morocco. 

It took six years for the 50-km Channel Tunnel connecting Britain with France to be completed, so it may be a tough ask for Spain and Morocco to complete the same feat of engineering that fast, especially as they haven’t officially agreed to it yet. 

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Apart from it offering an incredible new travel experience between Spain and Morocco - Europe and Africa - the trains would also be used to transport freight, opening up profitable new import/export routes between the two continents.

It would be incredible if this futuristic train did materialise but knowing Spain’s track record for delayed rail and other gargantuan projects, we shouldn’t really hold our breath.

On a completely different note, the Spanish press has reported this week that there will be a serious shortage of doctors working at Spain’s hospitals over the summer. 

Increasingly long waits to see a specialist at public hospitals in Spain have been making headlines recently. 

Poor work conditions, better pay overseas spurring Spanish doctors to move, and a gigantic bureaucratic hold-up involving the recognition of thousands of foreign doctors’ qualifications all mean Spain’s healthcare system is understaffed.

READ ALSO: Record 850,000 people waiting to have an operation in Spain

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Having nowhere near enough doctors during the summer however is a problem that’s been happening “for 20 years” according to the head of the Spanish Society of Primary Health José Polo, who says authorities “argue about it without trying to find a solution to the problem”.

It’s as simple as too many doctors going on holiday during the summer, as most Spaniards do, a setback that surely could be quite easily avoided with better organisation.

This year’s shortages are expected to be particularly bad due to the fact that junior doctors who are part of the “Covid generation” and suffered delays in their studies as a result of the pandemic should have begun their residency in June but instead are beginning in September. 

Spain’s Health Minister Monica García has passed the buck to the regional government, arguing that it’s their responsibility to address their shortages of doctors.

The initial plan seems to be to throw 2,500 of these not-quite-qualified medical students in the deep end to cover the vacation time of the senior physicians, “a patchwork” that won’t work according to health professionals.

READ ALSO: Spain's plan to stop the privatisation of public healthcare

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