SPANISH Development Minister Francisco Álvarez-Cascos joined First Deputy Prime Minister Rodrigo Rato on February 11 to mark the start of work on the 25 km base tunnel under the Pajares pass on Renfe’s León - Oviedo route. Last year GIF awarded four separate tunnelling contracts worth a total of €1·38bn (RG 7.03 p421), expected to take 60 months to complete using a total of five TBMs.

The government has authorised bids to be invited for a further three civil works contracts within a total budget of €478·7m. These will cover the 9·4 km between La Robla and the southern portal of the base tunnel at Pola de Gordón (budgeted at €118·7m), the 6 km between the northern portal and Sotiello (k174m) and the 9·3 km between Sotiello and Pola de Lena (k186m).

Specifications are being drawn up for three contracts covering tracklaying, electrification and the installation of signalling and telecommunications over the 49·7 km between La Robla and Pola de Lena. Budgeted at €62m, €22m and €18m respectively, they bring the total project cost to €1·96bn.