Northeastern Corridor – to the French Border
Construction is currently underway to connect the new high speed line from Barcelona to the French TGV network via the Perthus tunnel under the Pyrenees.The line from Barcelona to Figueres is scheduled to open in 2012, while the line from Figueres to Perpignan is set the open in 2009. France has yet to commit to the construction of the section between Perpignan and Montpellier. As a result trains will use the existing regular railway line north of Perpignan to reach the TGV Network at Montpellier.
The line will be operated by Talgo and Siemens AG train sets, although it require special train sets. The French line Perpignan – Montpellier is electrified at 1.5 kv DC, but Spanish trains use 25kv AC. However French trains are dual-voltage allowing both TGV and regional trains to operate on the line. All Spanish trains are single-voltage.
Bilbao-Vitoria-San Sebastian (Basque Y). This line will connect the three Basque capitals in 2011. Planned connection with Madrid via Valladolid, and with the French border via Irún and Bayonne.
Madrid-Pamplona. It will be operational in 2012. There is a planned extension to connect Pamplona with the Basque line and the French border.
Variante de Pajares. This line will cross a very mountainous area between León and Asturias. Planned extension to connect Valladolid with Oviedo and Gijón.
(Atlantic line AVE high Speedy train). This line will connect all Galician coastal cities, including La Coruña, Santiago de Compostela and Vigo, with the Portuguese border, and eventually, with Porto.
Orense-Santiago de Compostela. Will be the first segment of the line that will connect Galicia and the Atlantic line with Madrid, via Valladolid.
Southwest – Portuguese Corridor
Cáceres-Mérida-Badajoz-Lisbon. This line will connect the two peninsular capitals in 3 hours, connecting the south west region of Extremadura to the High Speed network. This line has been an important matter in bilateral summits during the last years. Spanish track should be completed around 2010 and the Portuguese one around 2015. It is not clear if there will finally be a station in the Spanish town of Mérida.
Madrid-Cuenca-Albacete-Arco mediterráneo (Mediterranean Arc). This line will connect Madrid with Valencia, Alicante, Murcia and Almería. Expected in 2009.
Future Planned Lines
In the short term other connections to the LGV are planned. A new line to France is under construction at La Jonquera in Catalonia with another proposed at Irun in the Basque Country.
Other new lines are under consideration, including a line connecting Soria to the Madrid-Barcelona line at Calatayud. Finally, the Madrid-Barcelona line currently terminates in Barcelona’s Estació de Sants, there has, however, been talk of a new station being built on the other side of the city in La Sagrera.
In the long term the Spanish government has an ambitious plan to have 4350 miles of high-speed rail operational by 2010, with all provincial capitals at most only 4 hours from Madrid, and 6.5 hours from Barcelona. According to the Strategic Plan for train infrastructures developed by the Spanish Ministerio de Fomento Ministry of Public Works, called PEIT, a second expansion program is planned to start in 2010-2011, when the last lines of the first program still under construction begin to operate. This plan has a ten-year scope, ending 2020, and its ambition is to make the 186 mph network reach 6214 miles by the end of that year. This would be the most extensive network in Europe, with several operational links with France and Portugal and is by far the most ambitious high speed rail plan in the European Union.
Critics of this scheme point out that raising the average speed of Spain’s regional trains would achieve a much greater global impact at much less cost. At present, there are some rural lines where average speeds barely exceed 37 mph. The speed between some provincial capitals is little better; for example, it takes some 9h30min to cover the 784 487 miles between León and Barcelona.
On the other hand there has been a great improvement of speed and time with trains that link Madrid with other capitals that do not have direct AVE connections, but that use the high speed line for most of the route, such as Huelva (4h50min), Cádiz (4h55min), Pamplona (2h59min), Logroño (3h40min), Irún (5h19min), Bilbao (4h46min), San Sebastián (5h20min) and Santander (4h25min).