SPAIN: On August 1 Renfe reported that the number of passengers carried by high speed services between Madrid and Barcelona had, compared to the same period in 2007, increased by 84·5% since February 20 when trains began using 1435 mm gauge infrastructure throughout (RG 3.08 p121).

Having increased its share of the Madrid – Barcelona market from 12% in December 2007 to 41%, at the expense of the airlines whose share has declined from 88% to 59%, the Spanish national operator says that it has attracted 1·46 million new passengers to rail. From September 15 the number of services each day in each direction is to be increased from 20 to 26, increasing capacity by 16·6%.

With the contract to build a new tunnel under the city centre awarded only recently (RG 2.08 p68), high speed infrastructure between Barcelona and Figueres is not expected to open before 2012. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Development is planning for international services to use the existing railway from Barcelona when the new cross-border route between Figueres and Perpignan opens to traffic in 2010.

Including an 8·2 km base tunnel under the frontier, the 45 km route for passenger and freight traffic is being built by the TP Ferro consortium of ACS and Eiffage under a 50-year concession including operations which expires in 2054. Due to the delay in completing high speed infrastructure to Figueres, the ministry will be liable for compensating the concessionaire.

The European Ombudsman has asked the European Investment Bank not to provide any financial assistance while it carries out at his request ‘a proper review´ of the environmental impact assessment of the new route under Barcelona. This follows a complaint from a resident who alleged that the tunnel would cause serious environmental damage. EIB said that it had thoroughly reviewed the assessment carried out by the Spanish authorities, but has been asked to send its detailed opinion to the Ombudsman by September 30.