Spain has the second largest high-speed network in the world (just after China), to which Europe has contributed 57% of total funding for these types of lines over the past few decades. However, this bet did not result in a significant increase in the train’s market share compared to other modes of transport.
The neighboring country ranks 17th among 30 European countries in terms of the number of passengers per kilometer / inhabitant (Portugal, with less investment and without one kilometer high speed, ranks 19th). And it is the 20th in the indicator that measures the use of infrastructure capacity.
These data were presented by Jérémie Fosse, President of the Eco-Union, during an online conference on the renaissance of the railways in Spain and Europe, sponsored by the environmental organization Ecodes – Ecologia e Desenvolvimento.
It was already known that Spanish ecologists did not like high-speed or at least had doubts about its effectiveness, but successive examples were presented at this meeting of how the construction of infrastructures did not go hand in hand with a proportional increase in the accessibility and the number of passengers carried.
For this reason, Lena Donat from GermanWatch argues: “We need ripe fruit and not [mais] Megaprojects ”because“ it is better to reopen lines than to build new ones ”, especially those with closed railway borders, of which Canfranc (in the Pyrenees) with France and La Fregeneda / Barca de Alva with Portugal stand out.
Pau Noy, President of the Foundation for Sustainable and Sustainable Mobility of the Mediterranean Corridor, said that 50 years ago there were dozens of trains per week carrying goods (mostly fresh) from Valencia to France and today, after billions of euros were invested in this corridor, There are less freight traffic. And this “despite the enormous efforts that have been made to set the European standard in Spain,” he stressed. “There is no point in building an infrastructure if there is no more traffic afterwards.”
Lena Donat said the rail interoperability issues go well beyond the gauge and presented an impressive map that shows how European railways are a mosaic where everything is different from electrical voltage to signaling for communication systems and even platform height.
“There were more international trains in the 1980s. It was enough to switch locomotives at the borders and keep traveling, ”he said, but now, with technological advances and faster and more complex trains, it is more difficult to travel between countries. Hence, he argued that just as many countries support airlines, in order to have a real network of international services, they must help their rail operators buy interoperable trains.
In an event with several references to Portugal due to the lack of international trains with Spain (Sud Expresso and Lusitânia Expresso were suspended in March 2020), Lena Donat gave the example of today’s possible train journey between Lisbon and Madrid: “You I need three transfers , three different tickets and 11 hours of driving to cover only 600 kilometers. “
And to prove that the problem is not always infrastructure, he said that it is not even possible to buy a single ticket in an integrated way between the two countries because the railroad companies do not exchange data.