FEVE was created in 1965, as a successor to the government-run organization EFE (Explotación de Ferrocarriles por el Estado), which had been taking over failed private railways since 1926. Following the creation in 1941 of RENFE, to which the ownership of all Spanish broad-gauge railways was transferred, EFE had in practice become the operator of a collection of exclusively narrow-gauge lines. The present status of FEVE, as a government-owned commercial company, dates from 1972.
The new company continued to absorb independent narrow-gauge lines, (1,435 mm/4 ft 8 1⁄2 in(standard gauge), 1,062 mm/3 ft 5 13⁄16 in, 1,000 mm/3 ft 3 3⁄8 in, 914 mm/3 ft & 750 mm/2 ft 5 1⁄2 in), where the existing concession holders had been unable to be profitable. However, from 1978 onwards, with the introduction of regionalisation devolution under the new Spanish constitution, FEVE also began transferring responsibility for a number of its operations to the new regional governments. This happened in Catalonia in 1978, in the Valencian Community in 1986, with a part of the Basque network in 1979, and with Majorcan Railways in 1994. That did not occur, however, in the Murcia (autonomous community) region, where the narrow-gauge railway network remained under FEVE control. The above mentioned EFE (Explotación de Ferrocarriles por el Estado) also operated the local suburbano railway in the town of Madrid. This railway became part of the city's subway Metro de Madrid as its Line 10.
On 31 December 2012 the company disappeared due to the merger of the narrow gauge network FEVE and the broad gauge network RENFE. The infrastructure was transferred to Adif and the rolling stock was transferred to Renfe Operadora. The operation of the narrow gauge network continued under the same conditions after the reorganization.
The great majority of the narrow-gauge lines that were operated by FEVE before it disappeared were located along or near Spain's Atlantic Ocean and Bay of Biscay coastline, which stretches from Galicia in the northwest, through Asturias and Cantabria to the Basque Country (with a branch extending into Castile and León). Together they formed a large and strategically important system, which was why – unlike the other, more isolated regional railways – they have been retained under the integrated management of FEVE.
FEVE operated 1,194 km of track, of which 316 km were electrified.
An exclusive tourist service operated by FEVE is a 650 km (400 mi) long line, the Transcantábrico, which runs along the entire length of Spain's north coast, and has connected the cities of San Sebastián, Bilbao, Santander, Oviedo and Ferrol to Leon since 1982. Operated as a holiday service, the carriages of the train are furnished with bedrooms, lounges and restaurants and voyages typically last eight days and seven nights.
FEVE also operated "normal" regional (express and stopping) services (in sections) from Ferrol to Hendaya (some sections operated now by regional operators). One of the longest regular (non-tourist) FEVE service operated between Leon and Bilbao (a journey of some 7 hours).
FEVE also operated a range of cercanías or commuter services. The main commuter area is Cercanías Asturias, where the dense five line FEVE network was totally integrated with the RENFE lines and works effectively as a regional metro system.
The Bilbao area has a line running from Bilbao's Concordia station to the large town of Balmaseda, calling at local villages and settlements on its way through Biscay, as well as the main towns of Basurto, Sodupe, Aranguren, and Zalla.
FEVE's rails transported approximately 460 million tonnes[dubious ] of goods each year, accounting for a large part of the company's business. The products one may expect to see on board their goods trains include iron, steel and coal, fueling much of the country's industry.
Companies operating former FEVE services
- EuskoTren and Metro Bilbao - in the Basque Country
- FGC - around Barcelona
- FGV - in the Valencian Community
- SFM - on the island of Majorca
- Metro de Madrid - on Madrid town.
- Law 11/1965 of 23 September. Boletín Oficial del Estado Number 230. 25 September 1965  (PDF) (Spanish)
- "Deja de existir FEVE, cuyo patrimonio de bienes y servicios se repartirá entre Renfe y Adif". Retrieved 31 December 2012.
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