THE Spanish government will invest at least €2.5bn in a new rail connection between Santander and Bilbao, the minister of transport, mobility and urban agenda, Ms Raquel Sánchez, has confirmed.

At a meeting in Santander on March 31, the minister revealed the details of a feasibility study into the proposed 100km line that offers journey times of one hour between the cities on Spain’s northern coast. Six alternatives were presented, with the costs ranging from €2.5bn to €3.1bn.

Currently, the cities are linked by a metre-gauge branch line, which is partially electrified at 1.5kV dc at either end of the line.

The meeting was attended by the president of Cantabria, Mr Miguel Ángel Revilla, the government delegate in Cantabria, Ms Ainhoa Quiñones, Adif president, Ms María Luisa Domínguez, and Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda (MITMA) secretary general of infrastructure, Mr Xavier Flores.

The final route will include 20km of railway south of Bilbao which will allow trains to reach Abando. The Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Affairs (Mitma) says this will require the construction of tunnels and viaducts along two-thirds of the route.

Sánchez says the project is based on high demand which is estimated at more than 2.4 million passengers per year, while freight traffic will also use the new railway with the government keen to encourage modal shift.

The next steps will determine which of the alternatives proposed are most viable and present them for public consultation and environmental assessment.

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