Madrid-Barcelona high-speed rail line

Madrid-Barcelona high-speed rail line

The Madrid-Barcelona high-speed rail line is a convert|621|km|adj=on standard-gauge railway line inaugurated on 20 February 2008. It is one of the world's fastest long-distance trains in commercial operation, connecting the cities of Madrid and Barcelona, in Spain.

First stages

In 2003 construction of the first phase of a new standard gauge line from Madrid to the French border (Madrid–Zaragoza–Lleida) was completed and on 11 October of that year commercial service began. This service also stopped at Guadalajara–Yebes and Calatayud. The service began running at only convert|200|km/h|0|abbr=on. On 19 May 2006, after two years of operation, speed was upped to convert|250|km/h|0|abbr=on when the Spanish ASFA signalling system was replaced with level 1 of the new European ETCS/ERTMS system. On 16 October 2006 the trains on this line increased their operating speed to convert|280|km/h|0|abbr=on.

On the 18 December 2006 the AVE started operating to Camp de Tarragona, and on 7 May 2007 the service increased its speed to the maximum allowable for the line, convert|300|km/h|0|abbr=on. This puts Tarragona at 30 minutes from Lleida. The extension to Barcelona was delayed various times due to technical problems; the Ministerio de Formento having originally forecast the AVE's arrival in Barcelona by the end of 2007. [ [ La Vanguardia, 18 December 2006] ]

Complete operation

Since February 2008, the whole line is open. Seventeen trains now run every day between the hours of 6 am and 9 pm, covering the distance between the two cities in just 2 hours 38 minutes, except for those stopping at all stations, which take 3 hours. Before the high-speed line was built, the journey between the two cities took almost six hours; and when the high speed line went only as far as Tarragona, 3 hours 45 minutes, operated with the Alvia service (120 series train), which continued on the conventional line to Barcelona, after a change of rail gauge.


It was originally forecast that, after reaching Barcelona in 2004, the line would run at convert|350|km/h|0|abbr=on, the maximum capable speed of the new Siemens AVE trains which have replaced the Talgo Bombardier AVE S102, after the installation of level 2 of the ETCS/ERTMS, which is scheduled to be installed in 2008. But on the AVE's first day of operating at convert|300|km/h|0|abbr=on to Tarragona the Minister of Public Works, Magdalena Álvarez, stated that the maximum commercial operating speeds of the AVE on all lines would be convert|300|km/h|0|abbr=on. [ [ La Vanguardia, 7 May 2007] ]


It is forecast that the AVE will substantially replace air traffic on the Barcelona - Madrid route (in the same way that the Eurostar has on the London-Paris/London-Brussels routes and France's TGV has on the Paris-Lyon route). In fact, more than 80% of travellers between Madrid and Seville use the AVE, with fewer than 20% travelling by air. [Juan Carlos Martín and Gustavo Nombela, "Microeconomic impacts of investments in high speed trains in Spain", "Annals of Regional Science", vol. 41, no. 3, September, 2007] . In order to compete with each other RENFE has made, and Iberia will make, changes to their fare structures, as well as changing services; Iberia plans to use smaller planes which will leave as soon as full, and a non-stop AVE service is available between the two capitals.


There was much criticism during the construction of the Madrid-Barcelona line. A highly critical report by the consulting firm KPMG, commissioned by ADIF ("Administrador de Infraestructuras Ferroviarias") at the behest of the Ministry for Public Works (Ministerio de Fomento) on June 23 2004, pointed to a lack of in-depth studies and over-hasty execution of works as the most important reasons for the problems that dogged construction of the AVE line. For example, during the construction of the AVE tunnel near Barcelona, a number of nearby buildings suffered minor damage from a large sinkhole that appeared near a commuter rail station, damaging one of its platforms. The construction committee of Barcelona's famed Sagrada Familia church lobbied for a re-routing of the tunnel - it passes within meters of the massive church's foundations. It also passes equally near the UNESCO-recognized Casa Milà also designed by Antoni Gaudi.

Furthermore, until 2005 both Siemens and Talgo/Bombardier train sets failed to meet scheduled speed targets, although in a test run during the homologation tests of the new S102 trains of RENFE, a train-set Talgo 350 (AVE S-102) reached a speed of convert|365|km/h|abbr=on on the night of the 25th to the 26th of June, and on July 2006 a Siemens Velaro train-set (AVE S-103) reached the highest top speed ever in Spain: convert|403.7|km/h|abbr=on. This is a Spanish record for railed vehicles and a world record for unmodified commercial service trainsets, as the earlier TGV and ICE records were achieved with specially modified and shortened trainsets, and the Shinkansen (convert|443|km/h|abbr=on, 1996) record was for a test (non-commercial) trainset. However, running HSR trains is not a simple matter of making a train run fast. Energy usage, comfort, vibration, noise through tunnels and near homes, weather, hydroplaning, front end lift, everyday safety, disaster management, ease of use, wear and tear costs [It should be noted that during the successful TGV railway speed attempt in April 2007, the track's ballast was damaged to the extent that it was dangerous to run another TGV on the track before significant repairs had been completedFact|date=September 2008.] , construction costs, station design, routine maintenance of trains, rails, power lines, security, interoperability, ticket prices, schedules, passenger load and congestion are all factors that keep speeds to "manageable" levels.

See also



External links

* [ AVE at the RENFE] es

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