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country began service in December 2007. Soon thereafter, the line
south finished up in the popular coastal destination of Málaga.
Madrid--Barcelona, however, is the current jewel of the sys-
tem. Like the Madrid--Seville line, the new train to Barcelona
features an entirely new route, new tracks, and new trains---these
equipped with swiveling seats and full video and audio capa-
bility. And like the country's first high-speed line, this one dra-
matically slashes travel time. A trip that once took more than
six hours now takes just over two and a half. The new trains
offer a smooth, swift ride at about 185 miles per hour, or 300
kilometers per hour. When new signaling systems are installed
(they're expected for fall 2008), train speeds will be able to reach
220 miles per hour, or 350 kilometers per hour, and travel time
will shrink to about two hours.
By 2010 Spain will have the most high-speed tracks in the
world, and plans call for 10,000 kilometers by 2020. This would
place 90 percent of the population within 30 miles of a high-
Experts in the field cite two
and a half hours as a time at
which rail is competitive with
air travel. The line to Barce-
lona, at close to 400 miles,
now competes with one of the
most trafficked air routes in the
world: five million passengers
are expected to use it in 2008
alone. A rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles would be
shorter, at 347 miles. And Boston is only 50 miles farther by road
from Washington, DC, than Madrid is from Barcelona, meaning
it would be theoretically possible--politics, land-use planning, and
finances allowing--to build a train that could connect those U.S.
cities in about three hours.
The Madrid--Barcelona line also represents the beginning of
a new planned link to France. T.P. Ferro, a company created by
a coalition of the Spanish and French construction companies
ACS Dragados and Eiffage, has already broken ground on a new
tunnel underneath the Pyrenees, the mountains that separate the
two countries. The tunnel will eventually cut two hours from the
trip between Barcelona and Toulouse, and travel time from Bar-
celona to Paris will be reduced to four and a half hours.
GROWTH OF RAIL
Current international trends support the development of train lines
around the world. The cost of gas is spiking at the same time as
rail technology has enabled ever-increasing speeds. The growing
focus on limiting greenhouse gases adds to the interest in improv-
ing existing lines or developing new ones. According to RENFE
estimates, a train traveler from Madrid to Barcelona generates 13
kilograms of carbon emissions, while the same trip by air gener-
ates 70 kilograms.
Today, there are about 625,000 miles of high-speed lines in the
world, according to Barron. The International Union of Railways
(know by its French initials, IUC) predicts three times that total
by 2025, he says. According to these predictions, about a third
of the world's high-speed lines will be in Spain.
"Before, trains were competing with cars; now today's high-
speed trains are competing with planes," says Mario Oriol,
export and marketing director of the Spanish railway-vehicle
manufacturer Talgo. "That shows how fast the train technol-
ogy has developed."
In Turkey, the government is building a high-speed track
connecting Istanbul and Ankara; Spanish construction compa-
nies OHL and Guinovart are involved in building the line, and
Spanish manufacturer Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles
(CAF) will provide the trains. The company also recently won
a bid to supply suburban trains to the Turkish city of Izmir. In
Saudi Arabia, a high-speed line now in the planning stages will
link Mecca and Medina. Two groups of Spanish companies--
CAF/OHL and Talgo/Isolux
Corsán---are finalists in the
bid, and CAF recently won a
bid to supply eight trains to a
Tracks are also under devel-
opment in North African coun-
tries such as Algeria, Morocco,
and Libya, an area of interest
and bidding for many Spanish companies. SENER, an engineer-
ing company whose transportation branch can cover a project's
full cycle, has recently expanded into Algeria and is working on
a metro and tramway. "Algeria has a lot of money from oil and
gas, and they're investing it in infrastr ucture," says Cristina Ginés,
SENER's director of international development. CAF is provid-
ing trains for the new Algerian metro.
Talgo and CAF have also supplied trains for rail projects in
the U.S., including the Washington, DC, Metro and the Cascades
railway in the Pacific Northwest. Many companies plan to submit
bids when a final decision is made on plans for a potential high-
speed link between San Francisco and L.A.
While Spain surges ahead in rail constr uction, China may be a
close second, according to Barron. "China's rail system is creat-
ing a completely new network on the continental scale," he says.
The Spanish information technology company Telvent is already
operating in Chinese metros, and another Spanish IT company,
Indra, is one of the finalists in the bid for control systems on
new planned high-speed lines.
By continuing to innovate, Spanish companies are able to grow
along with the rapidly increasing market. Talgo, for example, is
providing trains for Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the for mer Yugo-
By 2010 the country will have
the most high speed tracks in
the world, with plans to expand
to 10,000 km by 2020.
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