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Trains too wide do not pass through the tunnels, Spain’s Undersecretary of Transport resigns

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Barcelona – Secretary of State for Transport and former president of the state-owned company Adif that manages the railway infrastructure, Isabelle Pardo de Vera and the president of the Spanish railway company Renfe, Isaias Tapuasresigned from his post last Monday after the scandal of trains designed at a very high altitude to enter the tunnels, which was announced by the press at the end of last January.

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Very wide trains do not pass through tunnels

She loudly demanded the resignations of the autonomous regions that saw themselves affected by the planning error, Cantabria and Asturias, which was raised and welcomed by Transport Minister Raquel Sanchez in an effort to calm the waters.


Therefore, the sacrifice of two intermediate positions by Renfe and Adive in recent days was not enough to bridge what was defined as “anarchy, something that failed” in the words of Miguel Angel Rivela, President of Cantabria. The facts that tell the story of “one of the biggest railway problems of recent years” date back to 2020, when Renfe undertook to renew the fleet of vehicles traveling on the rail network operated by Vevey with 31 new trains, 21 heading for Cantabria and 10 for Asturias, Their introduction was supposed to reduce the average age of those traders from 28 to 15 years. It is in fact an old network dating back to the 19th century, which has been plagued with problems for over two decades, with trains in operation for up to 40 years, often at risk of accidents. Café Basque has won the contract to design and build the trains for 258 million euros, and the contract sets the implementation, manufacture and maintenance time at 220 months. Café soon realizes Renfe’s error in the dimensions shown in the tender: the trains are in fact designed 20 cm higher than the network’s tunnels can contain, precisely because the tunnels in that network are lower than normal. It’s a design flaw, the machines haven’t been built yet, so not a penny has been spent. But costs will now rise to fix the problem and there will be at least a two-year delay in deliveries, when the first new trains are due to arrive next year.

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the problem

In the first months of 2021, the problem was reported by the successful bidder, so Adif and Renfe must have known about it for some time, and the story has been hidden for two years. The Minister of Transport appointed to lead the department a few months later and was not officially aware of the matter until the moment of the press disclosure, admitted the problem at the beginning of February and promised to conduct an internal investigation, which has not yet ended, to determine the responsibilities. It happened. Possible solutions are being studied. The tunnel expansion hypothesis was immediately rejected because the process would take much longer and be too expensive. To avoid restricting the interior space of trains for passengers, it is thought to apply the so-called “comparative method”, used in other countries but never used in Spain, according to which the new machines will duplicate the dimensions of one of the trains in operation, and thus to avoid new errors and reduce manufacturing times as much as possible. possible. The right design for the summer will be completed. The first new trains will be ready in 2026, and until then, the Ministry guarantees free local rail transport services in Cantabria and Asturias, at the request of the respective regional heads, although in the rest of Spain this measure applies until the end of 2023 In addition, The new trains will be seven more than the original 31, and a commissioner will be appointed by the ministry to oversee the completion of the project.

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Anarchy akin to the Spanish anarchy occurred in France in 2014. At that time, trains too wide to pass were built on the platforms of old stations. But since in this case the trains had already been built, the tracks had to be modified, with additional costs.

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