Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line

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high-speed rail line
Line length: 621 km (386 mi)
Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
0.0 km Madrid Atocha
to Seville
64.4 km Guadalajara-Yebes
221.1 km Calatayud
272.9 km Plasencia de Jalón
294.9 km Bif. Moncasí
306.7 km Zaragoza-Delicias
434.6 km Les Torres de Sanuí
442.1 km Lleida Pirineus
448.6 km Artesa
512.8 km Corredor Mediterráneo
520.9 km Camp de Tarragona
Barcelona avoiding line
El Prat
Direction Can Tunis
620.9 km Barcelona Sants L3.gif L5.gif Rodalies de Catalunya.svg
Provença-Mallorca tunnel
Barcelona Sagrera L4gris.svg L9gris.svg Rodalies de Catalunya.svg
Barcelona avoiding line
44.38 km International Section Ends
Pirineus Tunnel
French - Spanish Border
Perthus Tunnel (8,300 m)
Tec River
Elna to Arles line
A9 Motorway
D612A road
Rand River
0.00 km International Section starts
Classic line to Vilafranca de Conflent
Le Soler
Classic line to Portbou
Classic line powered at 1.5kV
LGV Méditerranée to Paris

The Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line is a 621-kilometre (386 mi) standard gauge railway line inaugurated on 20 February 2008. Designed for speeds of 350 km/h (217 mph) and compatibility with neighbouring countries' rail systems, it connects the cities of Madrid and Barcelona in 2 hours 30 minutes, and continues to Figueres near the French border where there is an end-on connection to the LGV Perpignan–Figueres leading into France, and so to the European high speed network.

First stages[edit]

In 2003 construction of the first phase of a new standard gauge line from Madrid to the French border (Madrid–Zaragoza–Lleida) was completed and on 11 October of that year commercial service began. This service also stopped at Guadalajara–Yebes and Calatayud. The service began running at only 200 km/h (124 mph). On 19 May 2006, after two years of operation, speed was increased to 250 km/h (155 mph) when the Spanish ASFA signalling system was replaced with level 1 of the new European ETCS/ERTMS system. On 16 October 2006 the trains on this line increased their operating speed to 280 km/h (174 mph).

On 18 December 2006 the AVE started operating to Camp de Tarragona, and on 7 May 2007 the service increased its speed to the maximum allowable for the line, 300 km/h (186 mph). This puts Tarragona at 30 minutes from Lleida. The extension to Barcelona was delayed various times due to technical problems; the Ministerio de Formento having originally forecast the AVE's arrival in Barcelona by the end of 2007.[1]

Complete operation[edit]

The complete line was opened February 2008. As of 2012, seventeen trains now run every day between the hours of 6 am and 9 pm, covering the distance between the two cities in just 2 hours 30 minutes for the direct trains, and in 3 hours and 10 minutes for those stopping at all stations. Before the high-speed line was built, the journey between the two cities took more than six hours; and when the high speed line went only as far as Tarragona, 3 hours 45 minutes, operated with the Alvia service (120 series train), which continued on the conventional line to Barcelona, after a change of rail gauge.

Class 103 "Siemens Velaro" near Vinaixa


It was originally forecast that, after reaching Barcelona in 2004, the line would run at 350 km/h (217 mph), the maximum capable speed of the new Siemens AVE trains which have replaced the Talgo Bombardier AVE S102, after the installation of level 2 of the ETCS/ERTMS. But on the AVE's first day of operating at 300 km/h (186 mph) to Tarragona the Minister of Public Works, Magdalena Álvarez, stated that the maximum commercial operating speeds of the AVE on all lines would be 300 km/h (186 mph).[2] Nevertheless, in October 2011 the speed was raised to 310 km/h on parts of the railway.[3]


It was forecast that the AVE will substantially replace air traffic on the Barcelona - Madrid route (in the same way that the Eurostar has on the London-Paris/London-Brussels routes and France's TGV has on the Paris-Lyon route). Indeed, more than 80% of travellers between Madrid and Seville use the AVE, with fewer than 20% travelling by air.[4] The Madrid-Barcelona route was the world's busiest passenger air route in 2007 with 971 scheduled flights per week (both directions). In 2014, the line had already taken 61% of the traffic, stealing most of it from aircraft.[5]


There was criticism during the construction of the Madrid-Barcelona line. A critical report by the consulting firm KPMG, commissioned by ADIF (Administrador de Infraestructuras Ferroviarias) at the behest of the Ministry for Public Works (Ministerio de Fomento) on 23 June 2004, pointed to a lack of in-depth studies and over-hasty execution of works as the most important reasons for the problems that dogged construction of the AVE line. For example, during the construction of the AVE tunnel near Barcelona, a number of nearby buildings suffered damage from a sinkhole that appeared near a commuter rail station, damaging one of its platforms. The construction committee of Barcelona's famed Sagrada Familia church lobbied for a re-routing of the tunnel - it passes within metres of the massive church's foundations. It also passes equally near the UNESCO-recognized Casa Milà also designed by Antoni Gaudí.

Furthermore, until 2005 both Siemens and Talgo/Bombardier train sets failed to meet scheduled speed targets, although in a test run during the homologation tests of the new S102 trains of RENFE, a train-set Talgo 350 (AVE S-102) reached a speed of 365 km/h (227 mph) on the night of the 25/26 June 2006, and in July 2006 a Siemens Velaro train-set (AVE S-103) reached the highest top speed ever in Spain: 403.7 km/h (250.8 mph). At this time, it was a record for railed vehicles in Spain and a world record for unmodified commercial service trainsets, as the earlier TGV and ICE records were achieved with specially modified and shortened trainsets, and the 1996 Shinkansen record of 443 km/h (275 mph) was using a test (non-commercial) trainset.

Planned services in 2012
At Paracuellos de la Ribera
Route of planned high speed rail link.

Extension to France[edit]

Barcelona to Figueres[edit]

Originally planned to open in 2009, the extension to Figueres Vilafant railway station, via Girona, where there is an end-on connection with the LGV Perpignan-Figueres, opened on 7 January 2013. As of January 2013 there are eight trains a day running from Madrid, connecting at Figueres Vilafant with two TGV services to Paris.[6] There have been delays in building a four kilometre tunnel in Girona, the first phase of which was finished in September 2010,[7] and controversy over the route between Sants and Sagrera stations in Barcelona.[8]

Figueres to Perpignan[edit]

This is an international high speed rail line between France and Spain. The line connects two cities on opposite sides of the border, Perpignan in Roussillon, France, and Figueres in Catalonia, Spain. It consists of a 44.4-kilometre (27.6 mi) line which crosses the FrenchSpanish border via the Perthus Tunnel, an 8.3-kilometre (5.2 mi) tunnel bored under the Perthus Pass.[9] The line is open to high speed trains and freight. Construction was completed in February 2009, although services did not run until a station was built on the line at Figueres. As of March 2015, a daily TGV service connects Paris to Barcelona Sants via Perpignan-Figueres with 2 pairs of trips, plus other connections involving Lyon, Marseille, and Toulouse.[10]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ La Vanguardia, 18 December 2006[dead link]
  2. ^ La Vanguardia, 7 May 2007[dead link]
  3. ^ Madrid - Barcelona at 310 km/h with ETCS Level 2
  4. ^ Juan Carlos Martín and Gustavo Nombela, "Microeconomic impacts of investments in high speed trains in Spain", Annals of Regional Science, vol. 41, no. 3, September 2007
  5. ^ (Spanish) El AVE copa el 61,1% del mercado frente al avión en la conexión Madrid-Barcelona al cierre de junio
  6. ^ "Barcelona - Figueres high speed rail line to open on January 7". International Rail Journal. 10 December 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "Railway Gazette: Girona tunnelling makes progress". Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  8. ^ "Perpignan-Barcelona AVE to open in 2012 or .... 2020?". Today's railways Europe, Issue 140. August 2007. p. 10. 
  9. ^ "Perpignan-Figueras High-speed Rail Line". Structurae. Retrieved 30 January 2009. 
  10. ^ "Spain—closer than ever before". SNCF. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]