INTRO: Spanish National Railways has selected three different types of high speed train for the Madrid - Barcelona line where speeds will reach 350 km/h

WITHIN THE last six months Spanish National Railways has selected preferred bidders for three contracts for high speed trains, and more are in the pipeline. Most recently, CAF and Alstom were chosen to supply 20 regional high speed trainsets designated I-250. Expected to be worth Pts37·9bn, the deal was announced on May 25 and followed the selection in March of a Talgo-Adtranz consortium and Siemens to supply trains able to run at 350 km/h.

Both the Talgo-Adtranz (now Bombardier) and Siemens trains are intended to provide premium inter-city services between the capital city and Barcelona in 2h 30min timings - hence the high maximum speed that will introduce real competition for airlines that operate frequent shuttle services between the two cities. Although 350 km/h has been reached on tests and special runs on numerous occasions, no train has yet entered regular commercial service at more than 300 km/h. Other operators will therefore be watching Renfe closely as it pioneers another stage in the development of high speed railways.

Just how committed Spain is to high speed rail is clearly demonstrated by an ambitious new line construction programme. The Madrid - Barcelona line is the flagship scheme, and construction is now well advanced for opening in two stages in 2002-04. Civil engineering contracts have also been let for work on other high speed lines, including a 157 km branch off the original Madrid - Sevilla AVE line from Córdoba to M