Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Thursday, 3 june 2010 | General


About AVE (Spanish High-Speed Trains)

We would like to bring to your attention the report on high-speed trains in Spain that was published by the Barcelona daily Avui on Sunday May 23.

Some time ago Col.lectiu Emma wrote about a New York Times article on the same topic.

We feel that the whole AVE business is a good example of things that have been done wrong by both Spanish parties when they have been in power. When times were good, huge amounts were wasted on high-profile projects that made little economic sense. They had, however, clear political “ulterior motives”. One stated purpose of the high-speed train programme was to “vertebrate” Spain. That explains the radial pattern linking several provincial cities to Madrid, rather than building the rail lines along economic corridors. Not to mention corruption, or political patronage: the first cities that were chosen for new lines turned out to be Seville (under the Andalusian-led Felipe Gonzalez government) and later, under the PP, Valladolid, the heartland of the Spanish right and a place that is very dear to Mr Aznar’s heart.

The AVUI article contains some interesting facts and figures. Just as an example: The cost of the AVE project so far comes to about 50 billion euros. The passenger/kilometre ratio is 2.8 (compare 41.5 in France). The yearly maintenance cost is between 28,000 and 33,000 euros/km. When all the projected lines have been built and are operational, the maintenance costs will run to some 120 million euros a year. According to the International Union of Railways (UIC), an average of 6 million passengers are needed for any line just to cover its maintenance costs: the most successful one so far in Spain (Barcelona-Madrid) carries around 5 million passengers a year, and the Madrid-Seville line just over 3 million. The US Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, was very impressed when he came to Spain to gather information about a possible high-speed train project in America. Until he saw the bill. His comment: “You guys are rich. We can’t afford anything like this.”

In today’s context, when Spain is forced to make some very painful adjustments and blame for the disaster is often shifted to the regional governments (responsible for only about 2% of the 11% public deficit, while the figure for the central government is closer to 9%), the AVE programme is a good reminder of the foolish mismanagement of public funds (including from the EU Cohesion Fund) by both the Socialists and the PP. The Madrid media will rarely touch the subject, or only very lightly, because of the AVE’s continuing status as a symbol of the “new Spain”. We think that an in-depth inquiry on the AVE by an independent commentator could shed some light on the flaws of the Spanish economic model and help explain a lot about the reality of Spain’s “miracle”.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

We aim to be recognized as a trustworthy source of information and ideas about Catalonia from a Catalan point of view.
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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia