By Helene Zuber in Madrid
July 18, 2013
In the midst of the crisis, Madrid’s regional government and city administration are hawking their treasures and altering ordinances in order to make the Spanish capital more attractive to investors. The Spaniards are even selling the names of subway lines.
Sol, is the Spanish word for sun. Could there be a better name for the most important square in Spain’s capital. The square, where Puerta del Sol, or the sun gate in the old city wall, once stood, marks Spain’s geographic center. From this ground zero, the national roads lead out into the country, and it’s where the kilometer counting begins. Three subway and two commuter train lines also converge under the square.
But so much for Sol. As of early June, the announcements on the subway identify the famous square as “Next station: Vodafone Sol.” Even the time-honored signs at the metro entrances were replaced. Now the red logo and name of the British wireless group are displayed on new enamel signs. Starting in September, line 2 will simply be called “Vodafone.”
The advertising generates €1 million ($1.3 million) a year in revenue for the capital region, which is deeply in the red. Its government headquarters building is located at the front of the square, where Ignacio González, the conservative president of the Madrid region with the Popular Party (PP), has his office. He finds the new revenue model convincing, and he now wants to offer companies other subway lines as PR vehicles. In the last five, crisis-ridden years, the company that operates the Madrid metro has seen its passenger numbers decline by more than 12 percent, and it has accumulated a record €500 million ($655 million) in debt. González wants to generate additional revenues by privatizing the city bus lines.