SPANISH PRIME MINISTER José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero joined Development Minister Magdalena Álvarez to formally open the 179·5 km Madrid - Valladolid high speed line on December 22. The following day, when commercial services began, the ministers opened the final section of new line between Madrid and Málaga, the 54·5 km between Antequera and Málaga.

According to the Ministry of Development, 63·8% of the surface area of Spain and 73% of the population is now benefitting from high speed infrastructure. By January 7, RENFE had carried a total of 18 378 passengers on the Madrid - Valladolid route, reporting that only seven out of the 130 trains operated had arrived more than 15 min behind schedule. High speed passengers are eligible for a 50% refund of the ticket price if their train arrives between 15 and 30 min late, rising to 100% if the delay exceeds 30 min.

Of the 13 trains operated each way daily between Madrid and Valladolid (RG 1.08 p9), eight continue to destinations on the conventional network in the north and northeast of Spain. There are currently two trains a day to Bilbao, three to Santander and three to Oviedo and Gijón, and by January 21 services between Madrid and northern Spain had carried a total of 105 224 passengers, up 71·5% on the year before.

The opening of a gauge-changing installation at Olmedo in March to complement that at Valladolid should enable around 30 min to be cut off journey times between Madrid and destinations in the northwestern region of Galicia such as Vigo and A Coruña, but further reductions await electrification of the existing route via Zamora. Faster services using the high speed line should enable RENFE to increase the number of seats offered daily in both directions by 28% between Madrid and A Coruña, and by 51% to Vigo.

There is one intermediate station on the high speed line at Segovia Guiomar, where service frequencies from Madrid are due to increase in March with the introduction of medium-distance services branded as Avant, operated with Class 104 trainsets. These will complement AVE services to Valladolid, operated with Class 102 trainsets at up to 300 km/h, and the Alvia services to other destinations using gauge-changing Class 130 trainsets. These currently operate at up to 200 km/h on high speed infrastructure, with the maximum speed expected to be raised to 250 km/h in the course of 2008.

EU funds civil works

Cutting the distance by rail between Madrid and Valladolid by 68·5 km, the new route has cost €4·2bn to build. The Ministry of Development says that the cost of 85% of civil works was met by the European Union's Cohesion Fund, while the European Regional Development Fund met 60% of the cost of railway equipment works, including electrification, signalling and telecommunications. Support for studies was also forthcoming from the Trans-European Transport Networks programme.

Key to the time savings afforded by the new, direct route is the 28·4 km Guadarrama tunnel, whose twin bores now form the fifth-longest rail tunnel in the world. At 8·57 km, the twin-bore San Pedro tunnel is the third longest in Spain. TBMs proved unsuitable for local ground conditions, and it was completed by means of conventional techniques at eight separate tunnelling faces.

Notable structures include the 1·75 km viaduct over the Arroyo del Valle near Soto del Real which has 27 spans and piers up to 80 m in height. The central arch has a span of 120 m. The 702 m Majalahíta viaduct has 16 spans of 36 m and 46 m resting on 15 piers, the tallest being 32·3 m in height.

Passing loops 900 m in length have been installed at Soto del Real, equipped with emergency platforms which are 480 m long. The project has also included remodelling Madrid Chamartín, where six tracks on the eastern side of the station have been converted from 1 668 mm to 1 435 mm gauge to accommodate high speed services. A gauge-changing installation compatible with both the Talgo and CAF systems has been installed.

Málaga route complete

Traversing mountainous terrain and designed for operation at speeds up to 350 km/h, over 25·8 km of the 54·5 km Antequera - Málaga route is in tunnel. With twin bores 7·28 km and 7·30 km in length, Abdalajís tunnel is the longest. Single bores have been adopted for the other tunnels on the route.

There are 35 bridges and viaducts with a total length of 11·92 km, the most notable being the viaduct over the Arroyo de las Piedras. This is 1·21 km long with 20 spans, supported on piers up to 93 m high and as far as 63·5 m apart.

Building 168·8 km of high speed infrastructure between Córdoba and Málaga, opened as far as Antequera on December 16 2006 (RG 1.07 p5), has cost a total of €2·54bn, of which ERDF provided €853m. Since December 24 RENFE has been operating 11 trains a day each way between Madrid and Málaga, doubling the number of seats available each week to over 50 000. The fastest end-to-end timing now stands at 2 h 30 min for the 513 km journey, and by January 21 a total of 106 190 passengers had been carried on the Madrid - Málaga route, up 72% on the same period the year before.

The Córdoba - Málaga route is equipped with GSM-R and ETCS Level 2 signalling, with the LZB system first used in Spain between Madrid and Sevilla and ASFA intermittent ATP installed as a back-up. The control centre for the route is located next to Antequera Santa Ana station.

Journey time and capacity enhancements from Madrid

Destination Reduction in fastest journey time Increase in daily seating capacity*
Segovia 1 h 07 min -
Valladolid 1 h 29 min 84%
León 1 h 14 min 25%
Oviedo 1 h 10 min -
Gijón 1 h 10 min 28%
Palencia 1 h 14 min -
Santander 1 h 02 min 66%
Burgos 1 h 05 min -
Bilbao 1 h 20 min 100%
Vitoria 0 h 54 min -
San Sebastián 1 h 07 min 21%

  • CAPTION: Among the dignitaries gathered at the rebuilt María Zambrano station in Málaga on December 23 were ADIF President Antonio González and his RENFE counterpart José Salgueiro Photo: José Manual Luna
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