Urban mobility backing the railways in Spain


The main Spanish cities have strongly backed their commitment to the railroad as the ideal means for mobility and connections with the periphery. Its great advantages from the viewpoint of environmental, economic and capacity have been key to the existence of a consolidated mesh throughout the territory. In this way, Spain is one of the countries with one of the most advanced urban transport systems in the world.

Currently, seven large cities feature a metropolitan rail network: Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Malaga, Palma de Mallorca, Seville and Valencia. Light rail and tram systems are also operational in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia, Tenerife, Saragossa, Murcia, Alicante, Vitoria, Seville and Granada.

They are joined by an extensive commuter network run by Renfe Operadora, which is key in the daily commutes in the cities of Alicante, Asturias, Barcelona, Bilbao, Cádiz, Madrid, Malaga, Murcia, San Sebastian, Santander, Seville, Valencia and Saragossa.   The figures prove this is in great demand. In 2017, Renfe’s suburban rail network ‘Cercanias’ reached 423 million users. Alongside this network, this transport company also manages Mallorca Railway Services (SFM), Euskotren, Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) and Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat Valenciana (FGV).

State-of-the-art systems

This extensive network is equipped with state-of-the-art systems for traffic control, ticketing and tele-communications. All this has placed Spain at the head of the world in urban transport. A clear example of these advances is line 9 of Metro de Barcelona, the longest automatic network in Europe, which has been an international milestone.

Barcelona Metropolitan Railway Line 9, the longest automatic network in Europe that represents a milestone in urban transport.

The Spanish industry has made available to the national and international market innovations of special relevance such as trams without catenary, modern train-tram, payment systems with mobile or retrieval systems for brake energy, amongst many other examples. All pioneering solutions that are deployed in numerous countries on five continents.

Furthermore, there is a growing commitment to smart systems, accessibility, user experience, security, energy  efficiency, etc.

Engineering, talent and technical know-how.

The deployment of this state-of-the-art technology is possible thanks to the talented and highly-skilled Spanish engineers. Amongst the numerous examples, particularly noteworthy are the development of the driverless system in Spain, in operation since 2006, or the Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) system for lines  1 and 6 of the Madrid Metropolitan Railway. This involves a single system that has been developed through the use of migration of one existing system to another to control trains in an automated manner based communications and without interruption of the commercial service.


The plans of the administrations for the coming years are aimed at improving services, infrastructures and continuing to incorporate new technological advances.  The Government has announced an investment of 1.151 billion euros until the year 2025 as part of an action plan for commuter and medium distance routes. This entry will be used mainly to modernise the rolling stock, acquire new units and remodel stations in Asturias, Cantabria, the Valencian Community and Madrid.

Light railway and tramway systems are also operational in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia, Tenerife, Saragossa, Murcia, Alicante, Vitoria, Seville and Granada.

In the capital, the “Urgent Action Plan for the period 2018-2019”, endowed with 580 million euros, will be carried out.

With these funds, new trains will be purchased (243.5 million) as well as updating the existing fleet (81 million). Likewise, another 200 million will be allocated to modernise infrastructures and improvements will be made in stations with tenders amounting to 45.8 million more. 349.8 million euros will be allocated for the Valencian Community in the next seven years. Of this entry, 312 million will be set aside for the acquisition of new trains. In addition, 25.4 million euros will be used to modernise the existing fleet, while for miscellaneous tasks in stations almost 12 million will be allocated.

In the Cantabria Commuter Rail Plan, an investment of 158.5 million euros is planned up to the year 2025. The aim is to purchase new trains, worth 133 million euros, and modernise the existing fleet through the use of another 19.2 million euros.

In Asturias, new rolling stock will also be acquired for the amount of 45 million euros, while for the renewal of its fleet another 10.2 million will be used. In addition, works are planned at commuter stations with different types of tenders worth 7.2 million.

In the Basque Country, progress is also made in this matter. Amongst other aspects, the regional government will invest 11.4 million euros in the refurbishment of the stations and the line of the Txorierri railway. Of these, 1.9 will be for the renewal of the Derio-Zamudio section, while the remaining 9.5 will be dedicated to the integration of the Txorierri stations with those of Line 3 of the Bilbao Metropolitan Railway Alongside these plans, metro networks also look to the future with new investors.

In the capital, they have the backing of the European Investment Bank (EIB). This body has granted 85 million euros (the first instalment of a global loan of 200 million) to finance 50% of Metro de Madrid’s investments until 2019. The plan is aimed at refurbishing and modernising its infrastructures.

Amongst the works planned, improvements in accessibility in the stations, increase in the capacity of the lines, renovation of safety installations in electrical substations, modernisation of mechanical staircases, renovation of ventilation systems, trains and tunnels, along with ticket vending machines In a similar vein is Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat Valenciana (FGV), which doubled the investment budget in 2018 compared to previous years and allocated close to 45 million euros to new actions in Metrovalencia and TRAM d’Alacant. A trend that follows over the next couple of years.

The Metrovalencia network thus meets the needs in terms of electrification, signalling (level crossings, interlocking and safety systems in circulation) and control of facilities (air conditioning, pumping and ventilation). Work is being carried out on the renovation of roads and crossings, level crossings and fencing, improvement of stations, accessibility and modernisation of toll equipment. Also, in the improvement of the passenger information systems, as well as in the resumption of the works of Line L10, and the renovation and modernisation of Line 9 linking Benidorm-Dénia Tramway.