FASTEST journey times between Madrid and Logroño were cut by 1h 15min on January 19 when Renfe introduced Altaria services to the route. Talgo cars are hauled at up to 200 km/h on the high speed line between Madrid Atocha and Plasencia de Jalón near Zaragoza, where they pass through a gauge-changing installation before proceeding to Logroño on conventional infrastructure.

Altaria trains also run via Plasencia to Pamplona, with a fastest non-stop journey time from Madrid of 3h 22min. Renfe hopes the introduction of high speed services to this route will increase traffic by more than 60% from 106635 passenger-journeys in 2003 to over 170000. In the Madrid - Barcelona corridor, Renfe now runs high speed services to 18 cities serving a potential market of 6million inhabitants.

December 23 saw the formal opening of a single 1435mm track between Zaragoza and Huesca, laid alongside the existing 1668mm gauge line apart from the final 20·7 km between Tardienta and Huesca which has been converted to dual gauge and electrified at 25 kV 50Hz AC. As well as Altaria services to Madrid, Renfe now operates regional services between Jaca and Zaragoza with TRD DMUs that pass through a gauge-changing installation at Huesca, cutting 20min off the previous journey time.

  • In the first 100 days of operation on the Madrid - Zaragoza route since it opened on October 11 2003, Renfe carried 152786 passengers on AVE trains and 387333 on Altaria services. Compared with the same period in 2002-03, Madrid - Zaragoza traffic was up 41%. Average occupancy of the six Altaria services each way between Madrid and Barcelona was 87·9%.