In September 2013, the Spanish government requested the EU Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to finance up to €269m of the cost of what would be one of the world's largest rail test centres.
However, with the EC stating that according to projections "the project will remain vastly loss making" and acknowledging that "the initial investigation has revealed that demand for such a railway test centre seems low and public opposition, especially on environmental grounds, appears quite strong," the prospects for securing economic finance appear slim. It also raises doubts about whether the EU funding might give the Spanish facility an advantage over existing testing facilities which operate without state support.
Officials from Spanish infrastructure manager Adif reminded IRJ that the EC investigation is still in its initial phase and recognised that the economic feasibility of the whole project is reliant on private sector participation. As a result it is unclear if Spain will pursue the project without ERDF financing.
Mrs Ana Pastor, minister of public works and transport, has repeatedly insisted that the test centre is "feasible" with the support of the private sector. However, a public-private partnership (PPP) scheme tender in 2013 by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport failed to attract interest from private companies.
Adif's initially proposed a 15-20 year build-operate concession for the project, with the facility eventually transferring to Adif. Last January, the Spanish government confirmed that a tendering process under a new PPP model would be re-launched this year.
The 58km Antequera standard-gauge ring, which would have at least a 9km straight section, proposes testing trains at speeds above 250km/h and up to 520km/h. The complex would also include a 20,000m² service centre, along with other ancillary facilities, and would link to the Cordoba - Malaga high-speed line.