ecuador blog

ecuador blog

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News and comments and events relating to Granada, 'the city where anything is possible, Granada, 'la bella y la bestia, and Federico Garcia Lorca's complicated love-hate relationship with the city, etc

High Speed vs conventional trains

AVE (High Speed Train)Posted by Simon Tue, February 12, 2019 19:17:15

In November 2018 the west-bound Moreda line was re-opened, enabling a resumption of the conventional ‘Talgo’ Granada-Madrid intercity train service after a three-and-a-half year hiatus. This happened in spite of the fact that six months earlier, the government had categorically rejected the idea, arguing that the existing bus replacement service ‘covered the needs’ of travellers heading for Madrid, Sevilla, or Barcelona. There had been no significant drop in the number of users since the service was interrupted in 2015 it was argued. So everything was ok.

However, this cursory abandonment of the Talgo-Moraleda line is symptomatic of the relationship between the conventional rail network and the High Speed network, in which the former has consistently been neglected in favour of the latter.

For example, over 31,000 million euros have been invested in the High Speed network over the last decade; compared with just over 6000 million in conventional stock and infrastructure: a relation of 5:1.

Last year, 2018, a little more than 1000 million euros was invested in the AVE, as against some 337 million in the conventional rail network. So, 3 of every four euros invested in rail infrastructure went to the much smaller and less used High Speed network. The conventional rail network has more than 13,000 kilometres of track, compared to the AVE’s 3000. 2 million use the conventional network every day; whereas a maximum of 25,000 travel by AVE.

And while Spain has the most extensive High Speed network per inhabitant in the world, only exceeded in kilometres by China, at the same time the Spanish network carries the fewest passengers: less than 15 per kilometre, as against 50 for France, 84 for Germany, 63 for China, and 166 for Japan.

This imbalance has been largely brought about by the prestige the AVE contributes to the local political elites and business communities. The fear of missing the technological bus to the future is also a factor: An AVE-less city risks marginalisation, and being left behind. Every provincial capital strives to be on the AVE map, as indeed is the case for Granada.

In other words, a high-speed high-prestige rail service for the few is draining funds from an existing rail network used by an overwhelming majority of the population, with extremely detrimental long-term consequences. The High Speed network is an ‘inefficient mosaic’ without any realistic long-term planning in which delays and ‘unforeseen’ additional costs are the norm and have led to wasteful or inopportune investments to the tune of some 26,000 million euros over the last two decades. (From: Ramón Muñoz Madrid 6 Jan 2019)
Spanish Rail Network, showing existing operational AVE lines

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AVE (High Speed Train)Posted by Simon Tue, February 12, 2019 19:02:04
Granada will be linked to the High Speed Train (AVE) network from June 2019. [See previous blogs: Oct 2018 (#91); May 2018 (#85); Jan & Feb 2017 (#54 & 56); March 2014 (48); and Feb 2013 (#29).] This is almost certainly probably definite. It’s what Minister of Public Works, José Luis Ábalos, said last September. And besides, 18 June 2019 is the date that the bus replacement service to ferry people between Granada and Antequera expires. Until now, the bus company contract has been renewed every six months since the railway line was permanently closed for works to be carried out on the new line in April 2015.

Well, we said ‘probably definitely’ because, just in case, the bus replacement contract has been extended for another three months from 19 June, but not, we note, for the usual six. There has never previously been a contract of such short duration. So we have good reason to be optimistic. Something is moving. They’ve started training the High Speed Train drivers, I hear. So if it isn’t June, it will surely be before September?

The High Speed Train was once supposed to start serving Granada in 2007. In 2015 the station was closed ‘for 4 - 6 months’ while essential works were carried out. Then they talked about late 2017 for the first AVE to Granada, then early 2018, etc., etc

But this summer, 2019, you will probably definitely be able to whoosh into Granada at 300kph from either Madrid, or Sevilla. Fingers crossed. Or you could catch a plane from seven European cities. [//]

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AVE (High Speed Train)Posted by Simon Sat, October 13, 2018 11:48:16

One of the major international projects ever undertaken by Spanish enterprise, the High-Speed Train (AVE) between Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia, began its regular passenger service on Thursday 11 October 2018, only a year and a half behind schedule.

Originally, Granada expected to be connected to the Spanish high-speed rail network in 2007, the same year as Malaga. In fact, since April 2015, when the train service between Granada and Antequera was “temporarily” interrupted while essential work on the AVE rail link was being carried out, there have been no trains at all to Madrid, Barcelona, or Seville.

The very first journey on the Saudi Arabian AVE was actually made on 25 September, but only the King and a few other Saudi VIPs were on it. But Thursday’s trip was open to all pilgrims and travellers who could afford the luxury. There were very few empty seats. (In spite of the apparrent evidence of the picture above.)

Since April 2015, passengers have had to be bussed the 100 kilometres between Granada and Antequera, where they can connect to the national and AVE rail network. (Pictured below is the new 14.00 connection to Barcelona.) Work on the line itself is finished, they say. Testing began in December 2017 and training in May 2018. In the meantime “complementary tasks”, including the complete enclosure of the line and anti-erosion work, are still being carried out.

In all, a total of 35 trains capable of speeds up to 300kph will cover the 450 kilometres between the two Saudi cities in two hours. However, the service will not be fully operational until September 2019, when there will be 12 daily departures, seven days a week.

No date has been set for the start of the high-speed train service into or out of Granada. Although the Government initially promised to issue monthly progress reports, they have stopped doing so, and they have repeatedly refused to make any concrete commitment to a specific time frame for the completion of the project. In the meantime, RENFE, the national rail company, has extended its contracts with the bus replacement companies to February 2019.

Saudi Arabia Source: BANDAR ALDANDANI AFP, El País, 10 October 2018

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AVE (High Speed Train)Posted by Simon Wed, May 02, 2018 17:36:55

Granada has been almost completely cut off from the national rail network for three years. The last train to arrive in Granada from Madrid, Barcelona, or Seville was on 7 April 2015. Since then, if you wanted to travel to Granada overland by public transport, you would have to complete your journey by coach.

When the train service between Granada and Antequera, some 100 kilometres to the west, was interrupted over three years ago, they said it would be for a period of between four and six months while work on the ‘first phase’ of the high-speed rail link was being completed.

I first discussed the problematic execution of the high-speed rail link to Granada five years ago in February 2013 (#post 29) under the title ‘Low-speed AVE’, AVE being short for ‘alta velocidad’ (high-speed) at the same time as having the meaning of ‘bird’: a train that ‘flies’ like a bird, get it? The post referred to proposed compromises being imposed by austerity measures which would increase the journey time by up to 45 minutes and thus compromise the whole purpose of the project.

My last two posts bore the heading ‘No-Speed AVE’ and date from January and February 2017 (#post 54 & 56). The heading refers to the abandonment of any concrete commitment by the central government to completing the work at all within a specific time frame.

On Sunday 8 April some 5000 people took to the streets in the rain to mark the unfortunate third anniversary and to make a fresh demand for a commitment from the government with concrete dates regarding the inauguration of the AVE service to Granada. The main points of contention are the trajectory of a short-ish stretch of line through Loja, a town fifty kilometres west of Granada, and the last few kilometres into the city, via the western Chana suburb. A prompt conclusion of the speed trials through Loja was called for, as well as an underpass to avoid splitting the Chana neighbourhood in two. (Source: Javier Morales, Ideal newspaper, Monday 9 April 2018.)

For a tourist destination such as Granada is, the three-year hiatus in train services has of course been fairly catastrophic. The Provincial Government of Granada reckons losses of around 400 million euros in terms of lost income from tourists who would have visited Granada if there had been a decent high-speed train service, or, indeed, any sort of train service. In fact, the number of visitors to Granada has by and large maintained its 2014 level, because people have continued wanting to come here in spite of all the odds, and inconvenience.

In 2014 a total of 647,000 passengers passed through the station. In 2017 this figure had fallen to 321,393, a loss of 51%. The night train to Barcelona, it is reckoned, has lost 77% of its passengers: from 100,000 in 2014 to barely 19,000 in 2016, recovering slightly to 22,000 in 2017. The Madrid connection is almost as badly affected, with a loss of 40% of its passengers, from 157,000 in 2014 to 94,000 in 2017. The accumulated loss of passengers over the three years has been calculated at around 850,000, adding up to a huge loss of income for RENFE, the state railway company, on top of the 7.3 million euros that the government has had to pay on substitute coaches to freight passengers between Granada and Antequera. (Source: M. V. Cobo, Ideal newspaper, Sunday 8 April 2018.)

A major stumbling block to the completion of the long awaited high-speed connection has been the San Francisco tunnel in Loja. The nineteenth century tunnel is only a couple of hundred metres long, but it is curved, and leaves only a space of some 70 centimetres between the train and the tunnel wall. This is safe for conventional trains travelling at 30 or 50 kph, but surely less so, in spite of the train line’s assurances to the contrary, for an AVE whooshing through at around 300. Anyway, trials are being carried out, though nobody is willing to give any details about how far these have progressed, or how much longer they are likely to last, or when they are likely to be finished. (Source: M. V. Cobo again, as above.)

Work on the track itself is finished, they say, but there are still ‘complementary activities’ to be carried out, such as the gentrification of the station area in Granada, completing the enclosure of the whole length of the line, and anti-erosion work on the embankments. At the same time, something called structural tests are being carried out. These should be completed in May. Only then can the training of train drivers (no pun) be started as this has to be done over the new trajectory itself so the drivers can familiarise themselves with its unique characteristics.

Although the Government initially promised to issue monthly reports on the progress of work on the line, they have had nothing to say since October 2017. In the meantime, RENFE has extended its contracts with the bus companies to October 2018.

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No speed AVE

AVE (High Speed Train)Posted by Simon Fri, February 03, 2017 19:58:28
El nuevo retraso en los plazos confirmado anteayer por el ministro de Fomento, Íñigo de la Serna, ha sentado como un jarro de agua fría en las perspectivas que existían tras la visita del anterior titular del ramo, el pasado mes de octubre. Hace tres meses, la llegada de la Alta Velocidad estaba prevista para otoño de 2017. Ahora, este hito se espera para el primer trimestre del año próximo.
V. Gomariz Belda Granada, 03 Febrero, 2017 - 02:38h

The Minister of Public Works has just announced that there will be no trains to or from Granada this year and he’s now talking about early 2018. Three months ago the High Speed AVE was to start its service to Granada in the autumn of 2017. Come back in the autumn and see what they are saying then.

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Granada by train: No-Speed Ave

AVE (High Speed Train)Posted by Simon Mon, January 30, 2017 20:59:49

In February 2013 and March 2014 I blogged under the title of Low-Speed AVE about the delays and difficulties there were in connecting Granada to the High Speed Rail Network popularly known as AVE.

For two years now Granada has had no trains of any kind and passengers have to be bussed to Antequera to link up to the rail network.

The two-year interruption to rail services west of Granada is due to complications that have arisen in constructing an 18 kilometre stretch of the high-speed line through Loja, a town some 50 kilometres away.

At a meeting of the Andalusian PP (Popular Party), Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy promised us the arrival of the AVE “sooner rather than later”.

In the meantime, RENFE, Spanish Rail, renewed its contract for buses to transfer their passengers to Antequera for another six months, with an extension of a further six months likely.

Autumn 2017 has been bandied about as a possible inauguration date for the Granada AVE, but Rajoy was careful to avoid committing to it in his party political speech. Nobody is holding their breath in expectation, certainly not RENFE, who have not ruled out further extensions to their bus contract.

When Malaga got their AVE in 2007, we in Granada were confident that it was our turn soon.

When it does arrive, it will almost certainly be by means of a single track between Granada and Loja, following the same 18 km trajectory that has been in use since 1866. And the proposal to have it enter the city underground, passing beneath the Chana neighbourhood in the west of the city, has been clearly put on the back burner.

This is not the AVE we envisaged ten years ago.

Sources: A. Asenio, Granada Hoy, 18 Jan; RG, Granada Hoy, 18 Jan; V. Gomarz Belda, Granada Hoy, 21 Jan / My previous posts on 8 Mar 2014 and 12 Feb 2013

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AVE (High Speed Train)Posted by Simon Sat, March 08, 2014 16:58:15

(See: Low-speed AVE Tue, February 12, 2013 Blog #29)

The AVE, the High Speed Train Project, will be arriving in Granada – late, provisionally, low-cost, and low-speed. This was the message Mayor José Torres Hurtado brought from Mariano Rajoy’s Government to the good people of Granada some four weeks ago. The news did not fulfil their expectations, the Mayor was told in no uncertain terms.

Provisional plans foresee the AVE entering a refurbished Avenida de Andaluces station towards the end of 2015, overground, on a single track between Granada and Loja, following the same 18 km trajectory that has been in use since 1866. Two years ago an agreement was reached between central government, the regional government of Andalucía and the city council for the AVE to enter the city underground, passing discretely out-of-sight beneath the La Chana neighbourhood in the west of the city.

"No hay dinero.” There’s no money at the moment for that more elaborate and costly plan, favoured by the opposition parties, neighbourhood associations, and other interest groups. Instead, a relatively modest sum of 20 million euros will be spent on doing up the station and upgrading the existing line from Loja. This latest project will see the travelling time between Granada and Madrid cut by 1¾ hours to 2¾ hours. For the 425km stretch, that is a respectable average speed of 155kph. But with a capability of speeds up to 340kph, it is not so impressive. And it compares unfavourably with the AVE performance between Seville and Madrid, the 536km being covered in 2½ hours, an average speed of 215kph. Such a speed would cut the travelling time between Granada and the Spanish capital to barely 2 hours.

The La Chana neighbourhood, through which the railway line cuts, has the most reasons to be dissatisfied with this provisional solution. The plan they favoured was for the line to go underground when it reached the city limits but their complaints and protests have been brushed aside - with the argument that there wasn’t any money, but one day in the future, definitely maybe ...

Torres Hurtado and the Rajoy central government, when pressed, offer no timescale to indicate when this provisional plan will be converted into something more permanent and definitive. “One day in the future.” Are we talking about 20 years, or 40, or 60 ...?

"Sceptical and disillusioned" is how the president of the La Chana Neighbourhood Association describes his reaction to the news of the overground AVE reaching Granada by the end of 2015.

Acknowledgements: VÍCTOR OLIVENCIA 12.02.2014; V. GOMARIZ · V. OLIVENCIA 11.02.2014 GRANADA HOY

1: Avenida de Andaluces station, Granada. 2: Railway track through La Chana. 3: Districts of Granada. 4: "El Ave del desierto" - official visit.

Meanwhile, in another corner of the globe, where there IS money, a “desert AVE” is being built between Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This undertaking represents the largest international contract ever won by Spanish industry (6.736 million euros). Sealed in 2011, it includes the design and construction of the track, the provision of 35 trains, and the operation and maintenance of the whole system for a period of 12 years, extendable to 17.

More significantly, it is to hope that this project will pave the way for other new projects being offered to Spanish companies, such as the metros to be built in Riyadh, in Jeddah, and in Mecca. (Ay, the metro in Granada! Doesn’t it make you want to weep! - METRO DE GRANADA Sun, May 19, 2013, blog #37)

Then there is the prospect of two lucrative contracts for cross-country (or cross-desert) railway lines, one of 2,400km from north to south, linking Iraq and Yemen, and the other east-west, from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea.

On her visit to a “desert AVE” construction site, Minister of Public Works Ana Pastor was beside herself with delight at the brilliant achievements of Spanish engineering in Saudi Arabia and the promise the future holds. Construction of the line was very advanced, no technical difficulties had emerged, and the Saudi Government was expressing its satisfaction at the way things were going. “Spain is today an undisputed world leader in rail infrastructure,” Ms Pastor could boast.

Ay Granada! Torres Hurtado! The Neighbourhood Association of La Chana! Look upon yon Mighty Works, and weep!

Acknowledgement: MIGUEL JIMÉNEZ 15 FEB 2014 EL PAIS

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Low-speed AVE

AVE (High Speed Train)Posted by Simon Tue, February 12, 2013 23:44:25

Not only is Granada an international tourist destination with hardly any international flights (see blog #post27); its overland connections are not all that good, either. In fact, if you come to Granada, you are most likely to arrive by bus. (On a typical day, there are 16 arrivals from Malaga at the bus station and no direct trains; for Madrid the corresponding numbers are 13 by bus and 3 by train; for Barcelona, 4 and 2.)

The project to connect Granada to Madrid and via Barcelona to France by means of the prestigious AVE network is not looking very promising. AVE means ‘bird’ and it is an acronym for ‘alta velocidad’ - high speed - and it refers to the high-speed rail network that enables the train to compete with air travel thanks to its speeds exceeding 300 kph.

Well, Granada is going to get its AVE one day in an uncertain future, but, in contrast to the rest of Spain and Europe, it will probably be a low-speed AVE.

The first apparently insuperable obstacle to a high-speed AVE connection is the 18 kilometre stretch of rail through Loja, the only stretch that remains unfinished. The austerity-conditioned plan is to leave it unfinished and instead to use the existing railway line; a line that consists of 100-year-old tunnels, level crossings and viaducts too narrow for the wide-gauge AVE tracks, and sharp bends that cut maximum speeds down to around 50kph.

The austerity modifications would also mean that goods and passenger traffic would have to share one single electrified track. And although the line passes through the north zone of Loja there will be no stop here to serve the local population.

Some local environmentalists might be happy about the abandonment of the AVE through the Loja region because of the feared environmental impact it would have, especially on the groundwater levels of the region, although AVE aficionados say due preventive measures have already been taken.

Money: 900 million euros have already been spent on the 80% of the stretch from Antequera to Granada that have already been built. This stretch is double track, involving several kilometres of tunnels and viaducts, and allows passenger and goods trains to run independently of each other, and at speeds of up to 340kph. Much of the value of this investment would be cancelled out if it runs into an 18-kilometre bottleneck at Loja.

The other stumbling block is the location of the AVE station in Granada. Two years ago an agreement was reached between central government, the regional government of Andalucía and the city council to develop the present station in the Avenida de Andaluces for AVE arrivals, the train entering the city underground, beneath the Chana neighbourhood in the south-west. The high-speed rail network will now stop short of Granada City and passengers will have to make the last leg of their journey – by bus?

Maybe not. The government has promised the AVE station will definitely be on the spanking new and even by Granada standards astonishingly delayed Metro network. Finishing date? It will be, they say, in the outskirts of the city, where it will connect with the 'Mediterranean Corridor' rail project, which aims to link Barcelona, Valencia, Murcia, and Malaga by 2030 if we’re lucky.

Either way, with the low-speed AVE, travelling times to and from Madrid will not be reduced much from the current 4.5 hours (about the same as it takes by bus).

The unwillingness to make the investment to finish the AVE project properly and the apparent positioning of Granada as an outpost of an extremely long-term Mediterranean Corridor project do not augur well for the ‘city where anything is possible’ but very little actually achieved – and when it is, probably a bit shoddily, and much too late.

The original estimated date for the completion of the high-speed AVE to Granada was 2007. Today they are talking vaguely of 2020, for the low-speed version.

It looks as if the popular tourist destination of Granada will continue to test the determination of those visitors who want to get here to enjoy its magic for quite a while yet.

This blog relies heavily on articles in El Pais by Valme Cortés, especially one dated 18.12.12. It also makes use of Granada Hoy agency articles that appeared on 30 and 31.1.13.

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