SPAIN: The first phase of a corridor linking Madrid with Murcia opened on February 1, with the inauguration of a 38∙3 km section of high speed line between Monforte del Cid and Orihuela.

A special train carried dignitaries including Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón from Madrid to the opening ceremony at Orihuela Miguel Hernández station.

RENFE has launched the service using a fleet of first generation Talgo Class 102 trainsets providing 316 seats and a maximum speed of 300 km/h.

es-Monforte Murcia map crop

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There are initially by two return trains per day, departing from Madrid Atocha at 06.55 and 19.55 and arriving at Orihuela at 09.30 and 22.18. Return workings depart from Orihuela at 06.28 and 20.48. The Madrid – Orihuela journey time has been reduced by approximately an hour, and 1 264 seats are provided daily.

RENFE Operadora said that services would be increased as demand grows, subject to the Covid-19 crisis.

The line from Monforte del Cid to Orihuela with an intermediate station at Elche is double track, electrified at 25 kV 50 Hz and has a design speed of 350 km/h. It is equipped with both ETCS Level 2 and ASFA Digital train control and ATP systems. According to ADIF, the Madrid – Orihuela service will be the first in Spain to require trains to transition between two generations of ETCS lineside equipment during the journey.

Route revised

The route diverges from the Madrid – Alacant high speed line at Monforte del Cid, and is intended to run along the coast eventually as far southwest as Almería, but to date construction is underway only as far as Murcia, 23∙6 km beyond Orihuela.

Civil works contracts were awarded in July 2005 for the section from Beniel (15 km west of Orihuela) to the outskirts of Murcia, and between April 2008 and May 2010 for the remainder of the route. A further package was tendered in May 2015 covering remodelling of Murcia del Carmen station.

However, the high speed line has been through multiple design alterations since the procurement stage, particularly at the western end, and considerable delays ensued.

Until 2015 it was envisaged that access to Murcia del Carmen would be at grade to reduce costs, and in late 2014 it seemed as though the railway would be ready for use the following year; in 2017 the Ministry for Public Works again announced that the inauguration would take place that year. ADIF has since chosen to develop a 5 km underground alignment through Murcia.

At present there is no confirmed timescale for opening of the extensions beyond Orihuela.

Around 7 km of the new line will be in tunnel. Principal structures include the 2 020 m long Callosa de Segura and 1 730 m long El Murón tunnels; a 1 558 m long dive-under beneath the A7 motorway; and a 783 m long tunnel under Orihuela.

On the outskirts of Murcia the line crosses over an irrigation canal known as El Reguerón on a 366 m long, 42 m high pergola, the longest structure of its kind in Spain, completed in May 2008.