High speed at its best

Over the last 20 years, Spain has made a massive effort to develop a modern standard-gauge railway network and during this period the country has gone from no high-speed lines at all to Europe’s largest high-speed network. According to the UIC, Spain has the third largest network in the world, outrun only by Japan (2664km) and China (9356km), and Europe’s largest, with plans in place to eventually develop 5000 km of lines.
The Spanish rail infrastructure manager (ADIF) currently manages 3,150km of high-speed rail lines, both standard and Iberian gauge, confirming Spain’s remarkable position in design, construction and management of high-speed railways.

Over the past ten years, Spain’s railways have been expanding at a rapid pace, thanks to huge national investments and European grants. Currently struggling with feeble passenger demand, the country is trying to reclaim fade over profits by dedicating millions of euros to construction and improvement works across key sectors of its rail network.
Spain’s railways have received priority status over the past ten years in a bid to improve land connectivity between the country’s biggest cities. The motivation behind what has been a sustained investment in the rail sector has had part-economic, part-political justifications: the government’s aim was to build a fast, modern and reliable web of public transport that would link the country’s main financial centres, thus stimulating free movement and business growth.
Spain is at the forefront of research and development in ERTMS. It is the country with most kilometres of ERTMS in operation in the world. Major high-speed railway investments in recent years have allowed ERTMS to be developed in Spain,, which has 1,974 km of railway line equipped with ERTMS that is in service, of which 656 km are also equipped with Level 2, while the system continues to be implemented in new high-speed lines under construction.
According to the ‘Strategic Infrastructures and Transport Plan PEIT 2020’ report, “the aim of the activity in the rail system is to convert it progressively into the central element for the structuring of intermodal transport services for both passengers and goods.”
According to the transport planning document, the Government in Madrid plans call for 10,000 kilometers by 2020, which would allow 90 percent of Spaniards to live within 50 kilometers of a station, and make high-speed rail a meaningful alternative to automobile and air travel for much of the country’s population.
Currently, railways are receiving huge support both internally and from the European Union. On a national level, over the past two years the state budget has dedicated the lion’s share of funding towards building and modernising the railway sector, with the trend continuing into 2017. Additional support from the EU in accord with Europe’s transport strategy will further contribute to Spain achieving its 2020 vision of a fully coordinated, state-of-the-art railway system.
In 2016, Adif selected a consortium composed of Alstom, Siemens Rail Automation and CAF Signalling to install the ERTMS level 1 train safety and protection system which starts in the Atlantic Corridor this month, on the La Coruña-Santiago and Santiago-Vigo links. The works to install the ERTMS level 1 train safety and protection system started in 2015, on the Atlantic Corridor, on the La Coruña-Santiago and Santiago-Vigo links.
The value of the project is EUR 63.2 million and, in addition to the installation of the safety and traffic control system the consortium will also maintain it for 20 years.

Current high-speed railway network:
• Madrid-Seville
• Madrid-Zaragoza-Lleida section (Madrid-Barcelona-French Border)
• Madrid-Toledo
• Lleida-Camp de Tarragona section (Madrid-Barcelona-French Border)
• Cordoba-Antequera section (Cordoba-Malaga)
• Madrid-Valladolid
• León-Palencia, a connection to Madrid-Valladolid
• Antequera-Malaga section (Cordoba-Malaga)
• Camp de Tarragona-Barcelona section (Madrid-Barcelona-French Border)
• Figueres-Perthus Tunnel and Nudo Mollet Junction-Girona sections (Madrid-Barcelona-French Border)
• Madrid-Cuenca-Albacete-Valencia section (Madrid – Castile-La Mancha – Valencia Region – Murcia Region)
• Ourense-Santiago-A Coruña section (Madrid-Galicia and Atlantic Corridor)
• Barcelona – Figueres Section (Madrid – Barcelona – French Border)
• Albacete – Alicante section (Madrid – Castile-La Mancha – Valencia Region – Murcia Region)
• Olmedo – Zamora

The main challenge for the future is to finish the corridors currently under construction and make it possible to complete the connections with France via Catalonia and the Basque Country.
To become the world’s second longest network, Spain has invested more than EUR 45 billion in completed infrastructures and has allocated EUR 12 billion more to lines currently under construction.

High-speed lines under construction:
• Venta de Baños – Palencia – Léon – Asturias. Length: 225 km (excluding the Pajares New Line)
• Pajares New Line. Length: 49.7 km
• Venta de Baños – Burgos – Vitoria. Length: 200.4 km
• Vitoria – Bilbao – San Sebastián. Length: 176.5 km (including accesses to cities)
• Madrid – Galicia with Lubián – Ourense sections. Approximate length: 363 km
• Madrid – Castile-La Mancha – Valencia Region – Murcia Region. Length: 955 km (603 in service and 352 under construction)
• Extension of Madrid Southern Access-Torrejón de Velasco
• High-speed Mediterranean Corridor. Murcia-Almería section. Length: 184.4 km (not including the Murcia Railway Network)
• Antequera-Granada. Length: 125.7 km
• Madrid – Extremadura – Portuguese Border. Estimated length: 450 km
• Madrid: Atocha-Chamartín connection. Length: 8.2 km

The Spanish transport system is marked by a high degree of integration between its long distance railway system and inner-city metro systems, although the historic use of broad gauge has limited integration with its neighbours. But Spain is also currently working to increase and improve the connections with the rail systems of France and Portugal, including high-speed rail between Madrid and Lisbon.
The former Development Minister Ana Pastor revealed “the largest investment in suburban services on the national network for over 20 years”, a bold EUR 1.26 billion plan described by her as “very ambitious, but at the same time within our reach”. The project, together with a EUR 3.56 billion expansion of its high-speed railways planned for this year, is aimed at balancing the books and fostering greater connectivity.
The ambitious and continued investments in high speed rail, despite criticism over these investments in times of global economic recession, highlight only that high-speed rail is a productive investment and one with social, environmental and economic returns.

by Elena Ilie

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