HIGH-SPEED IN SPAIN HAS TURNED 30 YEARS OLD IN 2022. IT WAS ON 21ST APRIL 1992 WHEN THE FIRST AVE TRAIN BEGAN ITS JOURNEY IN OUR COUNTRY. SPECIFICALLY, BETWEEN THE CITIES OF MADRID AND SEVILLE. THREE DECADES LATER, THIS HIGH-SPEED ROUTE HAS PLACED SPAIN AS A GLOBAL BENCHMARK WITHIN THE RAILWAY SECTOR.
Around 3,700 kilometres of network length place Spain at the head of high-speed in Europe and in the second position worldwide, only behind China. 30 years ago, when the first high-speed journey between Madrid and Seville was made, Spain had 18 trains and 470.5 kilometres of line connecting five cities – (sólo se enumeran cuatro): Madrid, Ciudad Real, Cordoba and Seville. The investment made for the largest railway engineering work up to that time exceeded 3.2 billion euros.
With this high-speed launch, Spain became the fourth country in the world to bet on this transport system, after Japan (Tokyo-Osaka, 1964), France (Paris-Lyon, 1981) and Germany (Hannover-Würzburg, 1991).
Now, three decades later, the numbers have multiplied exceedingly 200 trains circulating on the 13 high-speed lines that connect 67 cities. The total track stands at 3,726 kilometres, which allow around 68% of the Spanish population to benefit from this network. During all these years, more than 350 million travellers have used these services. Of these, around 267 correspond to the users of the AVE and Avant services and about 90 million to those of the variable gauge services, which allow to use, without transfers, the two types of track existing in Spain.
The first high-speed line placed Spain on the international scene and meant a transformation at a technological and industrial level. Nowadays the Spanish industry is a global benchmark in terms of infrastructure, innovation, and sustainability, having imported its know-how to countries around the world. In fact, the Spanish railway industry faces a world leadership in terms of competitiveness and prestige. A fact that is demonstrated in the contribution that Spanish companies are making in hundreds of projects inside and outside our borders.
According to the OECD, Spain is among the top 10 countries and the high-speed network is a benchmark, an example to be followed by many countries. It is, in short, one of our best cover letters and it places the Spanish industry us at the forefront of the sector at an international level. And, according to Pedro Fortea, General Director of Mafex, “in addition to revolutionising the Spanish transport market, the implementation of high-speed in Spain accelerated and consolidated the development of a powerful railway industrial fabric that today is solidly based on three main pillars: innovation, internationalisation, and the knowledge and skills acquired.
This specific knowledge resulted initially from the integration of different technologies, some of them from other European countries, but integrated thanks to Spanish engineering and construction companies. Little by little we were consolidating the existing industry at that time, and increasingly developing our own national business fabric, until placing ourselves in the pre sent where we can boast of being one of the few countries in the world with a leading industry in the railway design, manufacture of rolling stock, signalling, construction, operation, and maintenance”.
This good work of the Spanish railway industry is evident in the fact that it is present in the most relevant high-speed projects in the world, in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey or Saudi Arabia, among others.
The construction of the new high-speed infrastructures currently existing in Spain has involved the investment of more than 50 billion euros. The main milestone achieved? The connection of the territory, uniting numerous cities from centre to centre and promoting development and a more sustainable mobility. Not surprisingly, 26 provinces currently have high-speed services, which represents 57.9% of the total area of Spain. On average 677 trains run every day and more than 31 million people enjoy their benefits.
“Throughout these 30 years, the line has undergone a rigorous maintenance plan to ensure high safety standards”