THE president of Spanish national operator Renfe, Mr Isaías Táboas, has resigned as the political fallout continues from delays to the delivery of new trains for Renfe’s 1000mm-gauge network in Asturias and Cantabria.
Delivery of the first train is expected to be three years late, after manufacturer CAF had informed Renfe that the infrastructure the trains would operate on did not in fact comply with the published specifications, notably for clearances in tunnels.
Renfe is reported to have specified gauging standards for new infrastructure in its tender, rather than requiring the new trains to fit within existing tunnels on the 1000mm-gauge network in northern Spain.
Spain’s minister of transport, mobility and the urban agenda, Ms Raquel Sánchez, announced on February 20 that she had accepted the resignation of the Renfe president, together with that of Ms Isabel Pardo de Vera, secretary of state at the transport ministry (Mitma).
Táboas will be succeeded by Mr Raül Blanco, formerly secretary general for industry and SMEs at the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade. Pardo de Vera’s replacement is Mr David Lucas, currently secretary general for housing at Mitma.
“From the moment I became aware of the issue, I have worked hard to find out everything that has happened and to resolve the situation,” said Sánchez.
“We have apologised, we have acknowledged the mistake, we have clarified responsibilities and we have commissioned an internal audit and set up a working group to focus on finding a solution and speeding up the construction of the trains as much as possible.
“It has taken a long time to respond to a complex problem and, although everything is already underway to mitigate the delay and provide a solution, I cannot deny that I would have liked to have had this information much earlier,” she said.
Sánchez has signed an agreement with the president of the Asturias region, Mr Adrián Barbón, and the president of Cantabria, Mr Miguel Ángel Revilla. Under an action plan intended to resolve the issue as soon as possible, mitigate its consequences and provide passengers with better service, free travel on Renfe suburban services in Asturias and Cantabria will continue until the arrival of the new train fleet.
This had been due to finish on December 31 with the end of the Spanish government’s national free travel programme. Additional funding will be provided to Asturias and Cantabria from the national budget.
Sánchez has also announced that the order for 31 trains awarded by Renfe to CAF in June 2020 for €258m will be increased by an additional seven trains.
Tenders will be called to refurbish the existing fleet in order to provide a better travelling environment, accessibility and reliability until the new fleet arrives.
Sánchez told the presidents of Asturias and Cantabria that the final design of the new trains would be ready this summer, enabling CAF to start production at the end of this year or the start of 2024.
The aim is to have the first trains in operation during the first half of 2026. The delivery date under the original contract was mid-2023.
“There has been no bad faith, not a single euro of public money has been wasted and no irreversible situation has arisen because no train has been built,” Sánchez said.
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