The Ministry of Public Works and Transport fell short of its promise to open 800km of new lines during 2015, but nevertheless succeeded in inaugurating the Valladolid - León, Santiago - Vigo, Seville - Cádiz, and Olmedo - Zamora high-speed lines, the latter opening on December 17.


Spain HSExpansion will continue this year with plans to open Venta de Baños - Burgos (75km), Antequera - Granada (100km), Monforte del Cid - Murcia (62km), La Robla - Pola de Lena (44km including the 25km Pajares Base Tunnel), and the 165km western section of the Madrid - Extremadura - Portugal line.

All of these projects have one feature in common: a low-cost approach in the final stages of construction. The newest dedicated passenger lines will be initially equipped with a single track to cut installation and maintenance costs, and in Extremadura the new line will not even be electrified when it opens. New lines will begin operating without ERTMS with maximum operating speed limited to 200km/h.

Commercial services will start quickly after newly-completed lines pass to the control of infrastructure manager Adif, with a shortened testing period. This will continue the trend seen in 2015 - the opening date for the Valladolid - León line was announced just five days before inauguration.

The year ahead will also see the Spanish government continue its struggle to extend standard-gauge tracks along the Barcelona - Valencia Mediterranean corridor, a task which has proved more challenging than initially expected as the works must be carried out without interrupting the existing rail service.

Renfe will sign its first high-speed rolling stock contract in a decade, which seeks the supply of 15 sets with an initial price tag of €1.1bn and includes an option for a second tranche of 15 additional trains.

With a budget of more than €10bn, including €3.7bn for high-speed, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport will have enough momentum to maintain investment in 2016. However, the new government will have to navigate two dire straits as it emerges from the December 2015 general election. These include the final fate of TP Ferro, the failed private concessionaire of the Figueres -Perpignan international high-speed line, and the liberalisation process which was due to introduce competition on the Madrid - Valencia/Alicante lines this year but suffered more delays in the run-up to the general election.