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Its all in the politics

Metro building : Madrid

Despite his credentials as 'a good centre-right politician' Luis Cortes says he is 'strongly in favour of public transport'.

And despite being 'all for private enterprise' he thinks metros are best owned and managed publicly.

Cortes is transport minister for the Communidad de Madrid, which is the autonomous regional government for greater Madrid, not the city council.

When he took office six years ago the president charged him with the expansion of the metro, which then had 112km of line. The region wanted develop the poor south side of the city to make room for a fast growing economy. New industries are springing up and there is to be huge Time Warner complex - Xanadu - in the south.

The way to go about it was 'find the right team' he says, starting with the right man at the top. And then it was crucial to work closely with them and give them backing. In 1995, when he appointed Manuel Melis, Cortes' government was hoping to built 24km on the system and perhaps a further 24km by 2003, 'although we set a slightly higher target to aim at.

'But we did much better.

Perhaps there was a good alignment of the planets but we also worked together which is the important thing. We were lucky but you have to arrange your luck.'

'One of the most important elements was to make decisions quickly, ' he says.

'I'm a politician and am pragmatic about decisions. But to analyse well you have to have good information to base the decision on - and I got it'.

Melis says of him that without his willingness to push through complex political decisions within 24 hours the project could have stalled early on.

Bonds raised against Madrid's publicly owned land bank funded the first phase.

The second stage was funded by loans against the metro system itself. The metro has been handed to a new publicly owned infrastructure company, Mintra, and once the second stage has been completed, will give the city a world class system, says Cotes, 'in the top five'. Features will include new air conditioned rolling stock and state-of-the-art information control systems and signalling.

Traveller information includes computer consoles providing a printout of the journey and a platform TV system with tailor made programmes.

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