Iberian gauge

In railway terminology, Iberian gauge (ancho ibérico/trocha ibérica, bitola ibérica) is railway track that has the running rails apart. The primary installed base of track is on the Iberian Peninsula in south-west Europe.

The gauge was adopted in the mid 19th century with the Portuguese gauge (with some tracks already existing in Standard gauge) adapting to the Spanish standard in order to ensure interoperability.


The main railway networks of Spain and Portugal were constructed to gauges of six Castilian feet (and five Portuguese feet ( making a common "Iberian gauge" of 1,668 mm.

One of the commonly cited reasons for the adoption of this non-standard gauge was to obstruct a repetition of French invasion attempts, but it may have been a technical decision, to allow for the running of larger, more powerful locomotives in a mountainous country.

Since the beginning of the 1990s new high-speed passenger lines in Spain have been built to the international standard gauge of , to allow these lines to link to the European high-speed network. Although the 22 km from Tardienta to Huesca (part of a branch from the Madrid to Barcelona high-speed line) has been reconstructed as mixed Iberic and standard gauge, in general the interface between the two gauges in Spain is dealt with by means of gauge-changing installations, which can adjust the gauge of appropriately designed wheelsets on the move.

There are plans to convert the whole broad gauge network to standard gauge, but so far the only visible indication is the use of dual gauge concrete sleepers (with two positions of bolt holes) on stretches of relaid broad-gauge track.


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