Both systems contribute to an important reduction in human errors in rail driving. Consequently, Spain is leading in the implementation of ERTMS, with 1,045 kilometers (649 miles) of lines that already have this communication standard.
Thanks to the consolidation of already existing high-speed lines and the opening of new links, an important reduction in traveling time has been achieved. It is worth highlighting that the Madrid to Barcelona link will save passengers around two hours. Moreover, the Madrid to Malaga and the Madrid to Valladolid connections have cut traveling time by an hour and a half. There have also been significant reductions in traveling time in lines that are still not connected with high speed, thanks to the construction of axle exchangers and trains with different gauges. These reductions in time result in more than an hour and a half on the Madrid to Granada connection. Furthermore, travelling time to cities in the north of Spain, such as León, Oviedo, Gijon, Santander, Bilbao and San Sebastian, has been cut down by more than one hour.
As a country we have reached a very competitive technological level with companies providing equipment, components, civil works and construction that compete on the international market. We can be very proud of where we are and what we are doing, and show Spain development of high-speed rail as a model for other countries.
The Spanish public works companies should be noted, as they have a very important responsibility in the strong and fast development of Spanish high-speed rail development. Our position in this sector is shown for example by the following fact: of the world’s 10 largest public works concessionaires companies in recent years, seven are Spanish companies. They total some 165 concessions, indicating the high level of technology and the financial solvency of these groups. In the high-speed rail sector many of these companies have been involved in for the construction of infrastructures.
Some examples include ACS, Ferrovial, Sacyr, FCC, Abertis, OHL or Acciona.
Also, our partnership with engineering and consultancy companies was a remarkable factor in our high-speed rail infrastructure growth. Examples include: Ineco-Tifsa, Getinsa, Idom, Prointec, Sener, etc.
In terms of technology used for this mode of transport, the Spanish industry working for the railway sector, and especially for high-speed rail, has worked extremely hard during the last few decades, despite structural disadvantages against the railway mode of transportation prevalent in Spain, such as mountainous terrain and curving tracks. These factors directly affect the possibility of getting faster speeds. Spanish companies manufacturing high-speed trains like Talgo and Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) have developed technology that allows the train to tilt into the center of the curve and therefore travel faster.
Another disadvantage turned into a need of developing our own technological solutions is the fact that in Spain we have a different track gauge from most of the rest of European countries. They have 1,435 millimeters (4.6 feet) and we have 1,668 millimeters (5.5 feet) track gauge. This particular aspect of the Spanish conventional railway network has forced us to develop solutions for gauge switching in the trains, not only in terms of high-speed ones, but also for those crossing borders of our country.
Some years ago, any train that wanted to cross from Spain to France had to stop, the wheels had to be reorganized and the front car and engine had to be changed. Now, Spanish train manufacturers have developed automatic gauge changeover systems. This makes it possible to adapt the train to the different gauge. This is important not only to cross borders with France, but also to permit a train to travel through conventional lines and through high-speed lines built under the European widthtrack gauge.