Spain has a performant high-speed railway network and will continue its plans to develop this network which attracts millions of passengers and contributes to a truly shift from road to rail transport. An efficient railway relies on state-of-art-technology, which absolutely changes our transport system. Schneider Electric, which leads the digital transformation of energy management and automation, is involved in Spanish railway projects, and, as UK is ready for its greatest infrastructure projects – HS2, Schneider Electric brings its expertise and solutions that will support the development and functionality of HS2.
With a continuous evolution since 1992, Spain’s high-speed rail network currently counts 3,240 km. After the 438-km Madrid – Albacete – Valencia HSR was put into commercial operation, in 2010, Spain became the first European country and the second in the world after China, in terms of number of kilometres of high-performance line in operation.
Between 2015 and 2018, Spain commissioned 1,000 km of high-speed lines and in 2007-2016, the country invested EUR 36 billion in high-speed rail expansion. And Spain has new plans which involve another 1,779 km of high-speed lines, being under construction.
Designed for speeds of up to 350 km/h, the Spanish high-speed railway network is used daily by 345 trains, which respond to a traffic of 36.5 million passengers per year. It should be noted that high-speed traffic performance represents 52% of the total rail passengers-km.
“These high-speed rail projects demonstrate how whole countries can benefit from an upgrade in rail infrastructure. In Spain, high-speed services attract more than 30% of new customers to rail travel, now representing 36.5 million passengers a year. Most importantly, it has increased rail’s multimodal share of the transport market in the country, effectively competing with air and private vehicle travel in short to medium distances,” said Peter Selway, Marketing Manager at Schneider Electric, a highly-involved company in Spain’s high-speed rail projects.
Designing, building and maintaining a high-speed rail network requires state-of-art technologies to meet traffic demand, and high-level safety and reliability standards. And this is the case of control centers, which need to be adapted according to the highest traffic demand, punctuality and safety. We mention that the Spanish high-speed rail network achieves 98.5% punctuality, as for passengers, this is one of the most important and appreciated factor when choosing a transport service. The punctuality of Spain’s high-speed transport ranks the second in the world, after Japan. “Ensuring reliable power supplies for traction and signalling systems is one of the key elements of achieving near perfect punctuality. It is definitely something that rail passengers here in the UK could benefit from.”
To assure a high-quality infrastructure and transport services, Adif designed operations control centers (OCCs) to manage and control all aspects of high speed traffic systems. Currently, Adif owns four such centers located in Madrid–Atocha, Zaragoza, Albacete, and Antequera (Málaga), which supervise hundreds of trains per day and dozens of infrastructure assets (stations, tunnels, viaducts, track gauge changers, etc).
Albacete OCC manages Madrid – Valencia / Alicante high-speed rail, which include all the systems involved in railway traffic, from infrastructure components and signalling systems, energy system, and passenger information, centralizing all systems and applications within one state-of-art technological platform. Under the Albacete OCC project, Schneider Electric, leader in digital transformation of energy management and automation, is responsible for the energy management and control systems which are integrated into an overall control platform and provides all needed information for an efficient functionality.
The success of Spain’s high-speed rail network and transport services, worldwide recognized, “should fill the UK rail sector with optimism,” Peter Selway says. And this because UK is preparing its iconic project – HS2, which will not only radically transform country’s railway system, through the new direct connections to the big cities, but will also have a major contribution to its economy, estimated at EUR 114 billion.
The EUR 62 billion project will be developed in several phases, with the first phase being estimated to be commissioned at the end of 2026, providing transport connection between London Euston and Birmingham. The second phase, including a Y-shaped network will open after one year on the 2a section between West Midlands and Crewe (in 2027). Phase 2b will be commissioned in 2033 and will link Crewe to Manchester and West Midlands to Leeds.
This year, HS2 marked an important progress, as bidders which have been invited to tender for the London stations construction contracts were announced, the concept for the Colne Valley viaduct was released, and the tender for track and overhead catenary system (OCS) package, including tunnel and lineside mechanical and electrical works (for HS2 Phase One) was announced.
With a such tremendous and important project for the whole Britain’s transport system, the modern technology plays a crucial role. “Automation will play a big part in gathering, collating and presenting data in real time so that any network issues can be identified and resolved quickly. This will ensure that rail continues to be the efficient, affordable and reliable transport mode of choice across the UK,” Peter Selway explained.
When talking about railway traffic and management systems, we are also referring to coordination, organization, supervision, and traffic regulation, and of course, costs, as a huge project is always related to costs and investment. Thus, in railway transport an efficient maintenance and energy consumption are significant elements for a performant and beneficial transport system. “With considerable new high-speed routes, such as HS2, due to begin construction, it is crucial to think now about the key proven and tested technologies that will reduce overall energy consumption and make maintenance more efficient. Having supplied power and power control systems to the two longest and most celebrated high-speed rail networks in the world in Spain and China, Schneider Electric is well-positioned to support the UK’s high-speed rail ambitions to build the most sustainable and a truly transformational high-speed railway network of its kind in the world,” Peter Selway said.