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slavia, where the rebuilding of the rail system reflects the advent
of peace and economic development.
The project originated in 2000. "We took a train over--- the
first train to run on the line again after the war in Croatia and
Bosnia--Herzegovina," says Oriol. "And during the test run we
were guarded, leaving one station in Bosnia by helicopters from
the Spanish ar my, which had been involved in humanitarian activi-
ties there. That was the project's kickoff."
Having worked with the conditions in Spain--steep moun-
tains, tracks that cur ve around various topographical impedi-
ments--Talgo was well prepared for the mountainous geography
of the Balkans. The company had developed lightweight alumi-
num trains with articulated cars, so that a train can be indivisible
instead of comprising different segments. Thanks to its system
of wheels that are mounted in pairs but not joined by axles, the
wheels move along the track independently, leading to a more
comfortable ride. These elements save energy, lower costs, and
make trains faster, safer, and more comfortable.
"Our lightweight technology and independent and guided
wheel system were ideal for that area," says Oriol. "In Bosnia,
they found these trains quite interesting, because they saw that
without any investment in infrastr ucture, the trains still reduced
journey times by 20 to 30 percent." Talgo is supplying 81 pas-
senger coaches, which will form nine trains.
Oriol says this project has important implications in the
region: "Bosnia--Herzegovina is actually going to reëstablish
all railway connections that existed in Yugoslavia before the
war, from Sarajevo to Zagreb in Croatia, to Slovenia, to Bel-
grade in Serbia." The trains will be delivered in 2010, after track
rehabilitation is complete.
The company also supplied trains to oil-rich Kazakhstan, which
recently moved its capital from the south to the north. The pre-
vious Soviet-era train could make the journey in 21 hours, but
Talgo trains reduce the ride to 13 hours, so an overnight train
can bring workers from the newly designated capital back to their
families down south for the weekend.
The weather extremes in Kazakhstan--from 45 ºC (113 ºF)
in the summer to --45 ºC (-49 ºF) in the winter--posed technical
challenges for Talgo engineers. They created a floating elevated
floor to avoid touching the frame, which is exposed to the ele-
ments. They used different components and different steel alloys.
"Basically, it was a complete redesign," says Oriol. The trains were
delivered in 2003 and have been running smoothly, sun or snow.
The gauge-switching trains for which Talgo is best known could
also be useful should Kazakhstan and China decide to link lines,
since China uses a narrower rail gauge than Kazakhstan.
FUNDING THE GROWTH
When it comes to financing, one of the trends taking place around
the world is the privatization of public projects. A company,
instead of the government, will supply all the necessary develop-
ment funds for a project such as a new highway. The company--
or companies--will then be repaid through the tolls or fares that
would traditionally go back to government coffers.
This approach is becoming especially popular in countries
where cash for up-front investments is scarce. CAF, which has
been working in Mexico for 14 years, won the 30-year conces-
sion for the new suburban train line from Mexico City out into
the surrounding state. The company is responsible not only for
supplying the trains but for overseeing the construction, signaling,
and telecommunications--all the necessary aspects of developing
a new train line. Companies involved in the project as subcon-
tractors include constr uction company OHL for the civil works,
Indra for ticketing, Thales for signaling and telecommunications,
Inabensa for electrification, and Telvent for the control center.
CAF sees this as a strategic beginning. "We saw that there was
a lack of funds for investment [in Mexico]," says Luis Giralt,
CAF's international director for Latin America, "but certainly
no lack of a need for this type of transport."
After two years of construction, the line began operation in
the spring of 2008. "Before, passengers along this line took an
hour an a half to get into Mexico City," says Giralt. "Now the
commute takes only 25 to 27 minutes." CAF has managed to hold
down prices to match those on the bus line.
"The response so far has been very positive," Giralt says. "Peo-
ple see that the trains are modern and air conditioned, and they
get from home to work much faster and much more comfort-
ably than before."
India, which is planning a multibillion-dollar upgrade and
expansion of freight and passenger rail, is also investigating con-
cessions as a means of financing, constructing, and supplying the
rail lines. Isolux Corsán, a top Spanish constr uction company that
also specializes in engineering, electrical wiring, and signaling,
looks forward to the potential. "They're planning concessions
in railway stations, for freight corridors," says international-busi-
ness director Álvaro Rengifo. "We have local partners and are
They company already has rail projects in development around
the world. Rengifo says that experience with all aspects of rail
development along Spain's high-speed corridors has helped Isolux
Corsán grow internationally and win concessions abroad.
Because high-speed rail allows for easy, zippy travel between urban
powerhouses, it has carried economic benefits to smaller cities
along the way.
When the AVE (the Spanish acronym for the country's high-
speed system) brought Ciudad Real and Puertollano to within
an hour of Madrid, both cities were strengthened economically.
The newfound proximity solidified Ciudad Real as a university
and regional business center, and the effect spilled over into
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