Soller residents will no longer receive a discount on the famous Ferrocarril train line. The European Commission ruled that the subsidy discriminated against tourists after a German national made a formal complaint.
The European Union threatened sanctions against the Balearic government if it did not comply with the demand to abolish the resident’s discount. Jaume Mateu, the regional transport minister, has now confirmed that residents will be forced to pay the full fare from April 1.
Tickets on the famous train, one of Mallorca’s biggest tourist attractions, presently cost €16 for tourists and €7 for local residents. The vast majority of passengers are guests, who accounted for over 90 per cent of the line’s almost two million journeys made last year.
That still leaves 50,000 people who will have their Balearic resident’s discount card taken away from them. The Balearic government is reportedly working on establishing a new subsidy system for locals, especially those who rely on the train to make a living or see relatives.
Different modes of transport may be considered, or users will be rewarded for frequent journeys with financial discounts that make no mention of residency. Another option is making return trips from Soller to Palma cheaper than two singles, or the more popular Palma-Soller route.
The European Commission’s decision found the discount to be illegal on the grounds that it discriminated against people on the basis of their nationality. Becoming a resident of Soller is not restricted by nationality or golden visa applicants.
The Ferrocarril de Soller is expected to do excellent business in 2017. Work first began on the railway, advertised to tourists as the Orange Express, more than a century ago in 1911.
Demands have long existed to update Mallorca’s transport infrastructure to reduce reliance on the railway and the attendant cost for residents with business in Palma.