SPAIN: Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero joined Development Minister Magadalena Álvarez on September 13 to witness the holing-through of the eastern bore of the Pajares base tunnel. Forming part of 49·7 km of new alignment being built at a cost of €2·39bn between La Robla and Pola de Lena, the twin-bore base tunnel will cut the distance by rail between León and Oviedo by 33 km.

With the completion of the first bore, the Ministry of Development reports that work is now 93·7% complete on the base tunnel, which will be Spain’s second-longest after that taking the Madrid – Valladolid high speed line under the Guadarrama range.

September 13 also saw the formal opening of a new 6 km connection south of León between the main lines to Madrid and Ourense, built at a cost of €28·4m to divert freight traffic away from the city centre. This forms part of a programme that will see freight and rolling stock maintenance facilities moved to a new site south of León, with 2·7 km of railway through the centre placed underground and a new station built for high speed services.

H Civil works on the 87·5 km high speed line between Ourense and Santiago de Compostela are now over 70% complete, the Ministry of Development has reported. The only sections still to go out to tender are those comprising the initial 1·5 km from Ourense and the final 3·6 km into Santiago.