AVE, an acronym for Alta Velocidad Española (literally, "Spanish High Speed," but also a play on the word ave, meaning "bird" in Spanish), is a service of high speed trains operating at speeds of up to on dedicated track in Spain.
Unlike the rest of the Spanish broad-gauge network, the AVE uses standard gauge, permitting direct connections outside Spain in the future. All AVE trains are currently operated by RENFE, the Spanish state railway company, although it is possible that private companies may be allowed to run lines in the future.
On the line from Madrid to Sevilla, the service guarantees arrival within a 5 minutes of the advertised time, and offers a full refund if the train is delayed further, although only 0.16% of trains have been so. In this regard, the punctuality of the AVE is exceptional compared to other non long distance RENFE services. On other AVE lines, this punctuality promise is more lax (15 minutes on the Barcelona line).
New Rail Link to Andalusia
Towards the end of the 1980s a new line was planned to join the Castilian Meseta
without passing through the Despeñaperros national park. After considering various options it was decided that a standard-gauge line, allowing for Spain's first high speed rail link, would be built. The project was named N.A.F.A. (Nuevo Acceso Ferroviario a Andalucía/New Rail Link to Andalusia) and was meant to help revitalise the stagnant southern Spanish economy. The line was inaugurated on the 14 April 1992
to coincide with Expo 92 being held in Seville. Seven days later on 21 April 1992
commercial service began with six daily services stopping at Madrid
and Ciudad Real
. In October 1992 RENFE began the AVE Lanzadera service between Madrid and Puertollano
and Ciudad Real
It has been suggested that the PSOE government chose the French Alstom bid over the Siemens and Talgo bids for political rather than technical reasons, rewarding the French government for its assistance in capturing ETA activists who took "sanctuary" across the border in southern France. Seville's hosting of the 1992 World's Fair prompted its choice for the inaugural AVE line, but there were also accusations that the Spanish head of government Felipe González favoured his home city; apparently, he conceded to support Barcelona in bidding for the 1992 Summer Olympics if Seville would be connected to the AVE first. On the other hand, Seville is still the fourth biggest city in Spain, after Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, with a population of some 700,000.
In January 1993 the Talgo 200 Madrid–Málaga service commenced, which used AVE lines as far as Cordoba and then Spanish gauge conventional track to reach Malaga. On 23 April of that year, the AVE set a new top speed of on a test run. Later in 1993 the mixed-method services Talgo 200 Madrid–Cádiz and Talgo 200 Madrid–Huelva began.
In 1994 AVE trains on the Madrid - Seville line began to run at , cutting journey times by 40 minutes and covering the in just 2½ hours.
Although in 1999 RENFE began a mixed-service Talgo 200 Madrid–Algeciras route, this was, along with the other mixed services, transferred to Grandes Líneas Renfe (RENFE's Spanish gauge long-distance brand) following changes to plans for high speed rail in Spain.
The last segment of the Madrid - Málaga line was completed on December 24 2007.
AVANT - Media Distancia
In December 2004 a new medium distance service (AV Media Distancia
operating under the 'Lanzadera' brand) began between Seville and Cordoba using new S-104 trains, reducing journey times between the two cities to 40 minutes. In 2005 the brand was renamed RENFE Avant and a further service was launched: Madrid–Ciudad Real–Puertollano.
The construction of a stretch of high speed line from Madrid to Toledo allowed the inauguration of a medium distance service in November 2005. The journey time between the two cities is now less than 30 minutes. The high speed link combined with high property prices in Madrid has encouraged many Madrid commuters to settle in Ciudad Real, the first stop on the Madrid-Seville line. There has, however, been controversy over the construction of this line as the change to standard gauge track meant that large towns such as Getafe, Aranjuez and Algodor, which now has no commercial services, lost their direct services to Toledo. Furthermore since Toledo is now connected by standard gauge track it is impossible for other passenger or goods trains to reach it that haven't come from other high speed lines.
Further Avant services have been launched with the expansion of the AVE to Valladolid and Barcelona. See below for details of all Avant services.
line was inaugurated on 20 February 2008
, after parts of the line had operated since 2003 (Madrid-Zaragoza-Lleida) and 2006 (Lleida-Taragona). Seventeen trains run now every day between 6:00 and 21:00 hrs. This line is currently one of the world's fastest long-distance trains in commercial operation, with non stop trains covering the between the two cities in just 2 hours 38 minutes, and those stopping at all stations in 3 hours 23 minutes.
line was inaugurated on December 22 2007
. It Includes a tunnel of at Guadarrama
, which is the fourth longest train tunnel
in Europe. Valladolid will become the hub for all AVE lines connecting the north and the north west of Spain with the rest of the country. Trainsets used on this line include S120 (max speed ), Talgo S130
, max speed ) and the S102
, max speed ).
Currently, there are several series of High speed trains that run the AVE service:
- S/100, manufactured by Alstom
- S/102, manufactured by Talgo and Bombardier
- S/103, manufactured by Siemens, marketed globally under the brand Siemens Velaro
There are also other series of trains that are considered high speed, but don't run under the AVE name. They run under the brand Alvia, and are variable gauge trains. They can run on High speed lines at a maximum of , and can also change between standard and Iberian gauge lines without stopping. The trains that are operated under the Alvia brand are:
- S/120, manufactured by CAF and Alstom
- S/130, manufactured by Talgo and Bombardier
Currently the Spanish high speed network is made up of the following services:
- AVE Madrid–Seville via Ciudad Real, Puertollano, and Córdoba.
- AVE Madrid–Valladolid via Segovia.
- AVE Madrid–Barcelona via Guadalajara, Calatayud, Zaragoza, Lleida and Tarragona.
- AVE Barcelona–Seville via Zaragoza, Córdoba and Madrid.
- AVE Barcelona–Málaga via Zaragoza, Córdoba and Madrid.
- AVE Madrid–Huesca via Guadalajara, Calatayud, and Zaragoza.
- AVE Madrid–Málaga via Ciudad Real, Puertollano, Córdoba, and Antequera.
- AVANT (mid distance) Madrid–Ciudad Real–Puertollano.
- AVANT (mid distance) Madrid–Toledo.
- AVANT (mid distance) Málaga–Córdoba–Seville via Antequera and Puente Genil
- AVANT (mid distance) Segovia–Madrid.
- AVANT (mid distance) Calatayud–Zaragoza
- AVANT (mid distance) Saragossa–Huesca
- AVANT (mid distance) Barcelona–Lleida
- ALVIA (mixed high speed-conventional) Madrid–Irún, via Valladolid, Burgos and San Sebastián.
- ALVIA (mixed high speed-conventional) Madrid–Bilbao, via Valladolid and Burgos.
- ALVIA (mixed high speed-conventional) Santander–Alicante, via Madrid and Valladolid.
- ALVIA (mixed high speed-conventional) Gijón–Alicante, via Valladolid and Madrid.
- ALVIA (mixed high speed-conventional) Madrid–Logroño.
The central hub of the system is Madrid's Puerta de Atocha, except for the Valladolid line, which terminates at Chamartin Station.
Construction and current development
Northeastern Corridor - to the French Border
Construction is currently underway to connect the new high speed line from Barcelona to the French TGV network via the Perthus tunnel under the Pyrenees.
The line from Barcelona to Figueres is scheduled to open in 2012, while the line from Figueres to Perpignan is set to open in 2009. France has yet to commit to the construction of the section between Perpignan and Montpellier. As a result trains will use the existing regular railway line north of Perpignan to reach the TGV Network at Montpellier.
The line will be operated by Talgo and Siemens AG train sets, although it will require special train sets. The French line Perpignan - Montpellier is electrified at 1.5 kv DC, but Spanish trains use 25 kV AC. However French trains are dual-voltage allowing both TGV and regional trains to operate on the line. All Spanish trains are single-voltage.
- Bilbao-Vitoria-San Sebastian (Basque Y). This line will connect the three Basque capitals in 2011. Planned connection with Madrid via Valladolid, and with the French border via Irún and Bayonne.
- Madrid-Pamplona. It will be operational in 2012. There is a planned extension to connect Pamplona with the Basque line and the French border.
- Variante de Pajares. This line will cross a very mountainous area between León and Asturias. Planned extension to connect Valladolid with Oviedo and Gijón.
- Eje Atlántico de Alta Velocidad (Atlantic line). This line will connect all Galician coastal cities, including La Coruña, Santiago de Compostela and Vigo, with the Portuguese border, and eventually, with Porto.
- Orense-Santiago de Compostela. First segment of the line that will connect Galicia and the Atlantic line with Madrid, via Valladolid.
Southwest - Portuguese Corridor
- Cáceres-Mérida-Badajoz-Lisbon. This line will connect the two peninsular capitals in 3 hours, connecting the south west region of Extremadura to the High Speed network. This line has been an important matter in bilateral summits during the last years. Spanish track should be completed around 2013 and the Portuguese one around 2015. It is not clear if there will finally be a station in the Spanish town of Mérida.
Future Planned Lines
In the short term other connections to the LGV are planned. A new line to France is under construction at La Jonquera
with another proposed at Irun
in the Basque Country
. Other new lines are under consideration, including a line connecting Soria
to the Madrid-Barcelona line at Calatayud
. Finally, the Madrid-Barcelona line currently terminates in Barcelona's Estació de Sants, there has, however, been talk of a new station being built on the other side of the city in La Sagrera
In the long term the Spanish government has an ambitious plan to make of high-speed railway operational by 2010, with all provincial capitals at most only 4 hours from Madrid, and 6½ hours from Barcelona. According to the Strategic Plan for railway infrastructures developed by the Spanish Ministerio de Fomento Ministry of Public Works, called PEIT, a second expansion programme is planned to start in 2010-11, when the last lines of the first programme still under construction begin operation. This plan has a ten-year scope, ending 2020, and its ambition is to make the network reach by the end of that year. This would be the most extensive network in Europe, with several operational links with France and Portugal and is by far the most ambitious high speed rail plan in the European Union.
Critics of this scheme point out that raising the average speed of Spain's regional trains would achieve a much greater global impact at much less cost. At present, there are some rural lines where average speeds barely exceed . The speed between some provincial capitals is little better; for example, it takes some 9½ hours to cover the between León and Barcelona.
On the other hand there has been a great improvement of speed and time with trains that link Madrid with other capitals that do not have direct AVE connections, but that use the high speed line for most of the route, such as: