New times in the Ministry of Transport, but the same plans in one of its dependent entities, the Railway Infrastructure Administrator (Adif). The departure of its president, Isabel Pardo de Vera, from the ministerial organization chart until a few days ago does not change the course of a company that in 2022 broke all its investment records, when it touched 4,000 million of the 5,400 that it had budgets from the beginning. By 2023, the total investment planned in the PGE exceeds 6,000 million, and it will be David Lucas, the new infrastructure secretary, who will have to take charge of achieving its milestones. Until now, the former mayor of Móstoles held the powers over Housing, one of the matters still pending to be resolved in the current legislature with a new law that is still under discussion with Podemos.
Ceased after the delay in the construction of the metric gauge trains for not fitting into the tunnels of the old Feve network, Pardo de Vera left Adif in 2021 on the way to the Secretary of State for Transport after greasing its internal machinery. He left in the hands of his successor, María Luisa Domínguez, also a technician, an important legacy of projects that, started or about to start, today enjoy a significant headwind from European funds and new work dynamics, also promoted by the renewal of personnel experienced by the public entity in recent years.
The milestone involves the upcoming start-up of the Pajares Bypass, the most expensive and complex work in the history of the Spanish railway
After reaching 4,000 kilometers of high-speed rail and maintaining second place in these developments after China, which plays in another league, the next milestone involves the start-up of the Pajares Bypass, the most expensive and complex engineering work of the history of the Spanish railway. This February the civil works have been completed, and now the public entity is working on the tests so that the trains can run from this very summer.
The more than 4,000 million euros invested will allow Asturians to save more than an hour on the journey to the plateau compared to the current layout, which dates from the 19th century. To understand the dimension of this work, one only has to disaggregate it: 80% of its 50-kilometre route between . This will be the only major work to come into service in 2023, despite being an election year, and it will not do so before the regional elections in May.
Prepare the competition to Andalusia
In the rest of the national territory, the most important and perhaps least visible work will be the comprehensive renovation of the high-speed line between Madrid and Seville, which after more than 30 years of service already requires certain actions to maintain the quality of the service and face its liberalization, which will start with the Iryo trains reaching several of the Andalusian capitals while waiting for the adaptation of the Ouigo trains. Adif will invest 650 million in these works, 580 of them already active.
In addition, the execution of the Mérida bypass is expected, which will save time for the trains entering the city, as well as the electrification of the high-performance train of Extremadura between Plasencia and Badajoz, barely a year after putting in place that you bring nu allow a important saving of time for Extremadurans in the absence of a decision to extend the line to Madrid.
While things are progressing in the north and south of the peninsula, the coast is not far behind either. After tendering investments for more than 1,500 million for the Mediterranean Corridor in 2022, its works are expected to accelerate at a new pace. Until today, the updating of the railway network in eastern Spain has mobilized investments worth 4,400 million euros, of which close to half, 1,900, have been executed. For this year, the most outstanding works will be the advances in the high-speed line to Almería, the connection between Valencia and Alicante, or the different actions to be carried out on its way through Tarragona.
Cercanías, the great pending challenge
While the fast network continues at its pace, the focus is now on the Cercanías, which main hubs (Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia) have been involved in problems and incidents for years. In 2022, the Government changed the investment dynamics and opted to inject more money into the conventional network than into the high-speed network, a relationship that will be repeated this 2023. The lines used by Cercanías trains will receive 1,800 million del0 to invest in the historical network, a figure that is expected to exceed 2,600 million that will be allocated to high speed.
Catalonia will be the main destination for these renovation plans, with the burials at Montcada i Reixac or Sant Feliu de Llobregat, in addition to the construction of the R3 line between Parets and La Garrida or work on the accesses to Barcelona airport. In Madrid, in addition to the intense renovation of the Chamartín station, which will involve an investment of 1,000 million, it is expected to start with the doubling of the line between Pinar de las Rozas and Las Matas, as well as the extension of the C4 to Soto del Real .
In Asturias and Cantabria, whose railway networks are up-to-date, Adif planes go through renewing the line between Pola de Lena and Oviedo to accommodate the new high-speed trains, doubling the track between Santander and Torrelavega or the renewal planes of the metric gauge network in the Colloto-Infiesto and Astillejo-Orejo sections. In the Valencian Community, still with significant effects between Castellón and Valencia due to the works on the Mediterranean Corridor, it is planned to renew tracks in the Silla-Cullera (C1) and Pobla Llarga-Silla (C2) sections.
The superstations of Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia
But if the new times of the Spanish infrastructures will be noticed in something, it will be in the stations. The liberalization of passenger transport has forced Adif to intensify its plans to remodel and expand iconic stations on the Spanish network because after the drop in passengers due to the pandemic, they have already become too small. While the works will remain in Madrid-Chamartín to convert it into the new great central station of the capital and of the Spanish railway network, the works will start in Puerta de Atocha to restore its historic building and build the new station that will allow all trains to pass they can stop at the two Madrid capitals.
Nor is Barcelona far behind in this regard, where the works on La Sagrera are showing a good pace, waiting to be able to replace Sants at some point, which should begin its remodeling imminently. But if there is a city that is going to see how its landscape changes, that is Valencia, which after a lifetime watching how the tracks split its south in two, has received the go-ahead from the Council of Ministers to start work on the Canal de Access to bury the tracks and free up its soil for a large urban park, in addition to remodeling the Joaquín Sorolla station.
As if all these issues seem few, Adif also has in its hands the task of the Ministry to expedite the passage of merchandise that currently goes by road to the tracks. The Government’s idea is to reach 10% of freight by train in the year 2030, for which it has launched planes such as rail highways and which are forcing investments in sidings or logistics terminals. The public company is also working on improving infrastructure and capacity while integrating into the Spanish logistics network with acquisitions such as the Puerto Seco de Coslada, which will allow it to free up land in Madrid and optimize merchant train traffic.