Spain is rapidly joining the European high speed rail club with almost as much line as Italy, Germany and France.
First came the line between Madrid and Seville in the south, completed in 1992 in time for the World Trade Fair.
A second 855km long line through Barcelona and on to the French border was begun by Spanish rail company Renfe in 1996. Work was handed over to a new company, Gestor de Infrastructuras Ferrovarias in 1997. Unlike Renfe, GIF has powers to raise loans alongside the Spanish government funds and European Cohesion Fund money that pay for the lines.
Approximately 650km of the line is under construction or completed with another 200km to go through the administrative and planning process.
Final stage signalling, catenary and E&M work is finished for 150km on the section from Madrid to Zaragoza and in design or construction as far as Lleida.
Some 90% of civils work is complete. This part of the line is due to open next year with Barcelona reached in 2004.
‘The line is also important because it links Spain into the trans-European network’ says a GIF spokesman. But it is not clear when this will happen, particularly as the French side TGV link has yet to be extended from Montpelier to the border.
Go ahead has also been given in Spain for several other lines, including a long link to the west from Madrid, a branch from the Seville line at Cordoba to Malaga, and a short section to the north west as far as Segovia and Vallolidad.
Meanwhile, discussions are under way with Portugese infrastructure company RAVE about a joint high speed link to Lisbon which is a priority for the European Union.
GIF is also building a section of experimental high speed line with an extra outside rail. This will allow the traditional Spanish trains to run on the same track. Spain has a wider track gauge than the rest of Europe while the high speed train lines are built to the standard international gauge.