Continuous growth of the Spanish high speed network

Posted: 23 August 2005 | | No comments yet

The precedent Spanish government started an ambitious plan for the construction of new high speed lines and the upgrade of some existing ones. Now, the new government (which came into power midway through 2004), has decided to continue the project, albeit with some changes.

The precedent Spanish government started an ambitious plan for the construction of new high speed lines and the upgrade of some existing ones. Now, the new government (which came into power midway through 2004), has decided to continue the project, albeit with some changes.

The precedent Spanish government started an ambitious plan for the construction of new high speed lines and the upgrade of some existing ones. Now, the new government (which came into power midway through 2004), has decided to continue the project, albeit with some changes.

The frame for all actuation is called PEIT (Plan Español de Infraestructuras de Transporte) and was presented last December to local authorities and media as a draft in order to be discussed and agreed. At the end of discussions – and once all have agreed on possible modifications – this draft will become the definitive plan and will include real timing.

The purpose of the PEIT is to obtain a total network of 10,000km of lines at ‘height performances’, modifying today’s radial structure and placing 90 per cent of the Spanish population (excluding Balear and Canary Islands) at less than 50km of this network. The Plan not only involves railways, but also roads and motorways, airports, ports and some cases of mass transit and intermodality.

One of the aspects of the PEIT having special political and strategic importance is the many links with Portugal, now under discussion with the government of that country.

Concerning links with France, it exists in the Mediterranean corridor (Figueras-Perpignan, which is being built under the regime of a concession) and the Atlantic one (Dax-Vitoria), still in the preliminary phase. Due to the complicated terrain, the objective of this second link is to build a new line with ‘classic’ parameters more than a true high speed line. Other than rapid passenger services, the first priority is to reduce the enormous volume of freight traffic using the roads between both countries. A third mountain link through the Pyrenees of Aragon seems more distant today, largely due to the indifference of French authorities.
Concerning rail investments, the PEIT previews more than ?103.4 billons, 42.84 per cent of the total, in the period 2005-20, of which 18.6 per cent is expected to be invested by the Public Private Partnership (PPP) system.

The common characteristics for almost all new lines is the adoption of a standard gauge (with eventual utilisation of installation for changing gauge in both of the two existing systems, Talgo and CAF), ballasted track with sleepers monobloc, electrification at 25 kV, and ERTMS Command Control system (in some cases completed, like ASFA, as an emergency system). These lines are mostly conceived only for high speed (minimum speed 200 or 250km/h) passenger trains, but some lines are previewed also for freight traffic.

All railway works (construction and maintenance) are carried out by ADIF, Administrador de Infraestructuras Ferroviarias, (from January 2005 the Infrastructure Manager of Spain) joining the former GIF and half of precedent RENFE.

The Madrid-Barcelona line

Indubitably, the first priority of Spanish government concerning new high speed lines is the ending of the Madrid-Barcelona corridor. This needs to be done in two stages: firstly by finishing the present layout in operation, Madrid-Lleida (470km) to Barcelona (630km in total) and, secondly, by reaching a performance of at least 300km/h for the first section.

Effectively, the maximum speed of the trains on the line between Madrid and Lleida is limited from the inauguration, in October 2003, at 200km/h, due to the unachieved system of Command Control ERTMS and other technical problems.

The previsions are to achieve ERTMS system level 1 after the summer of 2005 and to increase the maximum speed of trains up to 250km/h in the first stage and up to 300km/h in the second. ERTMS level 2, expected in 2007, will see completion of the line to Barcelona.

The layout of the last section of the line, which involves the entrance to the city of Barcelona, has represented a very long polemic between the different authorities involved; the main question, representing a significant deviation, being whether the line must or must not serve the airport. Both possibilities had advantages, but also very complicated inconveniences. The chosen solution was an intermediate one that includes a rapid link to the airport.

The final section involving the entrance in Barcelona Sants Station is already under construction.

One more section of the main line, representing the ‘by-pass’ of Lleida, is expected to be in operation in 2005. The utilisation of this section, together with the ‘by-pass’ of Zaragoza, (already in operation) combined with the start of operation of new rolling stock of full variable gauge (including power cars), series 120 of Renfe Operadora, will reduce the total travel time from Madrid to Barcelona to a little under four hours.

When the whole line comes into operation at maximum speed, the expected time for travelling from Madrid to Barcelona will be less than two and a half hours.

The Barcelona-Figueres

Although designed by the Catalan government many years ago, the start of works for this 135km line, with a layout following the existing motorway, is not yet fixed. Nevertheless, the finish of this line is indispensable for the connection between Spanish and the rest of Europe’s high-speed networks, throughout the concession link Figueres-Perpignan. From a technical point of view, the most interesting aspect of this line (in that it will not be a very busy corridor), is it has been conceived for mixed traffic so that passenger trains with operating speeds of up to 300km/h will share the line with freight traffic and thus, not surprisingly, of great interest to the Port of Barcelona.

The layout, crossing Barcelona by tunnel, will be completed with a ‘by-pass’ North of the city that will direct trains on a route to avoid Barcelona and save time.

The Figueres-Perpignan

At only 40km, this is not a very long line but it is very important because it represents the connection between France and the Spanish network of standard gauge in high speed. Its principal work consists of an eight kilometre tunnel, seven kilometres of which located in France.

After many years of discussion it has been decided that the construction, maintenance and operation will be made under the format of a concession. The first call for tender was repeated due to many different problems and finally the concession was awarded to the TP Ferro consortium, formed by, among others, two important builders of Spain (ACS) and France (Eiffage).
Both France and Spain assumes half of the investment. The rest is assured by the consortium and by loans. This investment will be compensated by the fee to be paid by users (passengers and freight) of the line. The amount of the fee is fixed in the contract of concession.

The traffic on the Barcelona-Figueres line will be mixed, involving high speed trains and other types, including freight trains. The construction started at the end of 2004; tunnels are already bored, and whilst completion is expected by 2009, the start of operation is subject to the finishing of the line Barcelona-Figueres.

The Cordoba-Malaga line

This 155km line benefits from the Madrid-Córdoba-Sevilla line and serves the important tourist area of the Costa del Sol. It has been conceived for operating trains up to 300km/h (some layout parameters are for 350km/h) and will reduce the present distance between Madrid and Málaga to 122km.

It will be composed in two different sections: the first one, with a length of 106km, is mostly flat, and goes from Córdoba to Antequera (near the historic junction of Bobadilla), where it will connect to Granada. The civil works for this section are almost finished, the montage of the track has started and this part of the line could be in operation by 2007.

The second section must cross a very difficult terrain – the Sierra from Antequera to Malaga – and the construction of this part is still at the civil works phase.

Moreover, the new station of Málaga is another important project which will complement this high speed line. The ambitious project includes a new passenger terminal with shopping centre, etc.

The Madrid-Valladolid line

This is a very important line, not only by its technical complexity, but it also serves as a central axle used by trains going to all North and Northwest regions of Spain.

The most important challenge of this 194km line is the crossing of the Sistema Central and the Sierra de Madrid, a route which requires many important tunnels. The longest of these tunnels, consisting of two galleries of 28km, was finished in June 2005, after only two and half years of work.

The time of travel from Madrid to Valladolid will be just one hour as apposed to nearly two and a half hours at present.

The start of operations for this line is scheduled by 2008 and due to its standard gauge, it will be necessary for operation with double gauge trains set (except for regional and local services between Madrid and Segovia and Valladolid).

The Madrid-Toledo line

This small branch (22km) from Madrid-Sevilla, will permit a journey time of 20 minutes Madrid at the capital of Castilla-La Mancha Region and important tourist centre of Toledo (near 70km in total). Consequently the line will be operated by regional trains at high frequency.

The construction, which profits the layout of the ancient branch at Spanish gauge, is very advanced and the start of operations could be made during 2005.

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