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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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