Infrastructures and Stations

High-Speed Lines

Map of lines and cities with high-speed railway services.

Index of contents:

  • Spanish high-speed railway
  • Adif´s timeline and experience
  • Lines under construction
  • Protection of the environment and cultural heritage
  • Spanish technological expertise
  • Connection with Europe. Interoperability development and ERTMS
  • Spanish high-speed, a world leader
  • International projects


Prince Felipe in the S-103 train cabin during the inaugural journey on the Barcelona-Figueres high-speed section (08-01-2013)

The Spanish High-Speed train service celebrated two decades in service in 2012, and did so as a world leader in terms of network length, modernity, the versatility of its fleet, commercial speed and punctuality. In these twenty years Spain has developed what is, possibly, the most modern and advanced high-speed railway in the world.

More than 121 million people have travelled on high speed trains on the Madrid-Seville line since the first commercial journey was made between these cities by an AVE high-speed train on 21st April 1992. Twenty years later, more than 300 high-speed trains are in service in Spain every day, serving around 100,000 passengers and some 80 Spanish cities and towns.

The high speed service has grown, generating development and improving the country’s communications structure and people’s quality of life. Almost 23 million users per year (data for 2011: 22.83 million passengers) use the trains of the public operator, Renfe, operating at an average commercial speed of 222 km/h, faster than in both Japan (218 km/h) and France (216 km/h). One of the aspects most appreciated by users is the punctuality of service, which stands at almost 99%.

Motilla del Palancar new line, Levante HSL

After 438 kilometres of railway line were put into service between Madrid, Albacete and Valencia, in 2010, Spain became first in Europe and second in the world, after China, in terms of the number of kilometres of high-performance line in operation, ahead even of countries with a great tradition in this type of transport, such as Japan and France.

With completion of the Albacete – Alicante section, in June 2013, the Spanish high-speed railway network reached more than 3,100 km in service.

The experience and technological knowledge gained have significantly increased the competitiveness and internationalisation of Spanish railway industry companies worldwide.

With innovation in infrastructures, signalling, electrification and rolling stock, Spain is at the technological forefront of the railway’s R&D&i sector.

  • More than 3,100 km in service
  • 31 stations in 21 provinces. 60.3 of Spain´s population (according to data from the last Spanish National Statistics Institute municipal register)
  • Another 50 cities benefit from services running on the high-speed and conventional networks, thanks to gauge changers.
  • Between 1992 and 2011, more than 140 million people travelled on high speed trains and another 52 million on other services running on the high-speed tracks
  • Leaders in technology integration and railway interoperability.


Istmo viaduct, Levante HSL

The main challenge for the future is to finish the corridors currently under construction and make it possible to complete the connections with France via Catalonia and the Basque Country. The goals are ambitious:

  • That 9 out of 10 citizens should be less than 30 kilometres from the nearest high-speed station

Benefits of high-speed railways

Train at full speed

Since its launch, 45,120 million euros has been invested in high-speed, making the railway industry one of the main engines of economic development in Spain.

Increased investment drives job creation (both directly and indirectly), reinforces regional cohesion, and opens new markets, especially in the services sector.

Commissioning of these high-speed lines benefits not only the cities they pass through, but also many Spanish regions, because of the interoperability of conventional and high-speed networks, made possible by gauge changing technology that allows adjustable-axle trains to circulate on both.

The social impact of the high-speed lines is also notable on roads, because of the creation of a new supply and demand scenario, and in aspects such as fewer accidents and time saved in road travel because of less congestion.

Environmental integration is an important part of the philosophy inspiring all high-speed line development. Firstly, these lines reduce CO2 emissions, and second, they are responsible for a considerable saving in energy of tonnes of petroleum equivalent.

Line in green countryside
  • The high-speed railway is an engine of economic development and sustainable transport


Aerial view of Vialia Albacete Los Llanos Station

Between 2005 and 2013 Spain has become a world leader in high-speed trains. In this time, our country has multiplied the kilometres of high-speed lines in service more than 5-fold, from a little over 550 km to more than  3,100 km, and the benefits of this fast, secure and efficient mode of transport have been extended from 7 to 31 cities. Adif has played a key role in this success, which has involved a qualitative leap forward for the Spanish railway and Spanish engineering.

The following are the main milestones of high-speed trains in Spain. Since 2005, Adif has put several high-speed lines into service, overcoming all kinds of technical difficulties and the challenges of mountainous terrain.

  • April 1992
    Madrid-Seville HSL
  • October 2003
    Madrid-Zaragoza-Lleida section (Madrid-Barcelona-French Border HSL)
  • November 2005
    Madrid-Toledo HSL
  • December 2006
    Lleida-Camp de Tarragona section (Madrid-Barcelona-French Border HSL)
  • December 2006
    Cordoba-Antequera section (Cordoba-Malaga HSL)
  • December 2007
    Madrid-Valladolid HSL
  • December 2007
    Antequera-Malaga section (Cordoba-Malaga HSL)
  • February 2008
    Camp de Tarragona-Barcelona section (Madrid-Barcelona-French Border HSL)
  • December 2010
    Figueres-Perthus Tunnel and Nudo Mollet Junction-Girona sections (Madrid-Barcelona-French Border HSL)
  • December 2010
    Madrid-Cuenca-Albacete-Valencia section (Madrid – Castile-La Mancha – Valencia Region – Murcia Region HSL)
  • December 2011
    Ourense-Santiago-A Coruña section (Madrid-Galicia and Atlantic Corridor HSL)
  • January 2013
    Barcelona – Figueres Section (Madrid – Barcelona – French Border HSL)
  • June 2013
    Albacete - Alicante section (Madrid – Castile-La Mancha – Valencia Region – Murcia Region HSL)


Construction of Contreras Viaduct (Levante HSL)

Adif continues to make progress on works and projects commissioned by the Government, shortening distances and uniting various regions of Spain with high-speed services.

The Ministry of Public Works is currently implementing more than 200 km, and has around another 2,800 km at the study or project design stage. The Ministry of Public Works is undertaking, among others, the Atlantic Corridor, the Mediterranean Corridor, Seville’s connections with Cadiz and Huelva and the line between Alcázar de San Juan and Jaen.

 Adif is building almost 1,500 km of high-speed line. Another 900 km are at the study or project design stage. Construction of the following high-speed lines has been assigned to Adif:

  • Venta de Baños - Palencia - Léon - Asturias. Length: 225 km (excluding the Pajares New Line)
  • Pajares New Line. Length: 49.7 km
  • Venta de Baños - Burgos - Vitoria. Length: 200.4 km
  • Vitoria - Bilbao - San Sebastián. Length: 176.5 km (including accesses to cities)
  • Madrid - Galicia. Olmedo - Zamora - Lubián - Ourense sections. Approximate length: 363 km
  • Madrid – Castile-La Mancha – Valencia Region – Murcia Region. Length: 955 km (603 in service and 352 under construction)
  • Extension of Madrid Southern Access-Torrejón de Velasco
  • High-speed Mediterranean Corridor. Murcia-Almería section. Length: 184.4 km (not including the Murcia Railway Network)
  • Antequera-Granada. Length: 125.7 km
  • Madrid - Extremadura - Portuguese Border. Estimated length: 450 km
  • Madrid: Atocha-Chamartín connection. Length: 8.2 km


Construction of the Ulla River viaduct on the Ourense – Santiago line

One of Adif’s top priorities in constructing new infrastructures is respect for the environment in which works are carried out, minimising impact and facilitating subsequent environmental integration. This is shown by the important commitment made in 2006 when the Strategic Plan for Quality and the Environment was adopted. This document, essential to Adif, sets out basic principles of environmental monitoring and sustainability to be used in creating policies aimed at protecting the environment and historical heritage.

Adif not only applies the existing legislation on these matters, but uses all its resources to set new targets. The aim is to strike a balance between the benefits to be derived from constructing and operating a high-speed line with the need to preserve the common heritage of all citizens, both environmental and cultural.

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is the basic point of reference when implementing a new high speed line, as it sets the guidelines to be followed in order to ensure proper protection of the environment. This translates into many specific measures, such as halting works for biological reasons, waste treatment, installation of fauna paths, etc.

Protection of the environment is not limited to the natural environment, but also includes areas of archaeological and paleontological value. The law establishes the requirement for specialists to be present during the execution of works in order to detect and, where appropriate, study and protect any remains that may appear. Sometimes, archaeological charters listing already known sites give archaeologists knowledge in advance of what may be found.

However, on other occasions works executed by Adif have brought to light remains of great value, contributing decisively to the progress of scientific research. As an example, the Lo Hueco paleontological site in the municipality of Fuentes (Cuenca Province) - one of the most important of its kind in Western Europe - was discovered quite by accident during track-bed works on the Madrid–Castile-La Mancha–Valencia Region–Murcia Region High-Speed Line.



Adif laboratory train going through a gauge changer

Spain is a world leader in high-speed rail designs and projects, in communication and signalling systems, in its capacity to build and maintain efficient and interoperable infrastructures at competitive prices, and in providing proprietary traffic management systems to ensure greater safety and efficiency.

The Spanish railway sector is at the forefront of technology, thanks to the development of interoperability and integration of the best railway technology (some developed in-house). It also excels at managing large projects, ensuring quality, price and delivery times.

Catenary post

For example, Spain is outstanding in rail traffic management thanks to the DaVinci System, which has been bought by the Moroccan Railway Company Lithuania Railways, among others. We can also boast the highest implementation rate of the European signalling system of any European country, having more than 1,800 kilometres of railway line equipped with ERTMS. We also are also leaders in automatic gauge changer systems, which are of great interest to other countries, like Russia, with a different gauge from the standard.

In addition, commitment to technological innovation has afforded Adif a large portfolio of railway products and patents available for the modernisation of the world’s railway system.

This is the case, once again, with the DaVinci system, which is among the word’s most advanced traffic management systems, integrating in a single application all the systems that make up the elements of a Control and Regulation Centre. Meanwhile, in the railway electrification field, Adif has developed an entirely Spanish catenary system named C-350. Finally, we should not forget new developments in electronic technology for level crossings protection, which have increased security at these strategic points of the rail network.


Train entering Guadarrama Tunnel (Madrid-Valladolid HSL)

Spain is at the forefront of research and development in ERTMS. It is the country with most kilometres of ERTMS in operation in the world. Major high-speed railway investments in recent years have allowed ERTMS to be developed in Spain,, which has 1,974 km of railway line equipped with ERTMS that is in service, of which 656 km are also equipped with Level 2, while the system continues to be implemented in new high-speed lines under construction.

ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) is a command and control system for trains, designed to ensure that signalling and communications between the track infrastructure and on-board train equipment are compatible throughout Europe, thus progressing towards railway traffic interoperability between EU countries.

The idea of achieving this compatibility was raised in 1996 by a European directive, but it was not until 2005 that the EU recommended member countries to adopt ERTMS as the control system for new lines, and to adapt existing ones.

ERTMS balises

Nevertheless, despite this recommendation, a railway line such as that connecting France and Germany has as many as 7 different signalling and control systems, meaning that for a train to run on this route it must either have all the systems in one cabin, or change cabins on each section.

ERTMS is structured at various Levels, increasing in accordance with systems’ performance levels. At Level 1, transmission of information from track equipment to the train is made sporadically via Eurobalises, while at Level 2 transmission is continuous via GSM-R radio.

Spain decided to implement the ERTMS system when constructing all new high-speed lines, adhering to the European directive and making a clear commitment to this new interoperable system.

Spain has played a key role in the deployment, development and success of ERTMS, and is an international leader in operating the system properly. Our country has shown the rest of Europe that technical interoperability among all providers is possible, as this is the system implemented, with high levels of punctuality and reliability, on all of Adif's high-speed lines, except for the first Madrid-Seville line. The longest interoperable route in Europe is between Barcelona and Malaga, on which a train fitted with Siemens' ERTMS runs on lines equipped with Thales, Ansaldo, LZB (using an STM translator of LZB to ERTMS) and Dimetronic. This line is the clearest example that interoperability is now a demonstrated fact.

In Europe, Adif plays an active part in developing the trans-European railway network, promotes coordination of high-speed connections with France and Portugal, participates in developing international regulations on safety and interoperability, and promotes the installation of ERTMS on Corridor D.

In addition, a pilot project to install ERTMS on the Madrid suburban network allowed Level 1 to be put into service on its C4 Line, last February.


The Haramein Project. Medina-Mecca High-Speed Railway

Photomontage of an Ave high-speed train travelling in the desert

Consolidation of an international business line is one of the strongest commitments of the Fomento Group. The Group has already gained a high international reputation by developing the high-speed railway in Spain. This, in turn, has served as a springboard for the Spanish railway industry abroad, representing a good business opportunity.

In this regard, the recent award to a Spanish consortium of companies of the international tender to develop a high-speed railway in Saudi Arabia is the flagship project for Spain undertaking to expand its high-speed model abroad.

The Spanish-Saudi consortium of Al Shoula Group is participated in by the Spanish public enterprises, Adif, Renfe, Ineco (under the Ministry of Public Works), Indra, OHL, Consultrans, Copasa, Imathia, Cobra, Dimetronic, Inabensa and Talgo, and by the Saudi companies, Al Shoula and Al Rosan.

The Haramein Project, to build and operate the high-speed line between Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, with a budget of 6,736 million euros, represents an opportunity to export a complete high‑speed rail transport system, making us an international benchmark of excellence for other similar projects.

Apart from being a major investment, this is a project led by companies in the Fomento Group that will transform transport habits in Saudi Arabia, offering new travel options to the millions of pilgrims who visit the holy cities in the west of the country each year.


Control and Regulation Centre (CRC) for the Madrid - Barcelona line

Since their inception, both Adif and Renfe have built up an extensive network of relationships with rail infrastructure managers in other countries, signing cooperation protocols. In the context of these agreements, representatives of various countries like the USA, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Brazil, Russia, Poland, Turkey and Morocco have come to Spain to learn about our high-speed model.

Other delegations interested in learning about the Spanish railway system have also visited us, such as those from Sweden, China, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Saudi Arabia, India, Tunisia, Algeria, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Japan, Czech Republic, Hungary, Uzbekistan, Croatia, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Australia, Qatar, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia and South Africa.

All the delegations that have visited us have been interested in our high-speed model in general, but have also shown interest in, among other things, our gauge changers, station construction and management, our Public-Private Collaboration (PPC) formula, the Atocha Control Centre, drilling work on the new underground connection between Chamartín and Puerta de Atocha stations, development of New Railway Technologies, and our conventional network.

For Adif, one of our key activities is to support and create consortia of Spanish companies to design and construct rail infrastructures and equipment abroad. In this regard, the collaboration agreements signed by Adif with various countries to develop their railway systems have been very successful, opening the door to Spanish companies interested in having an international presence in countries like Mexico, Russia, United Kingdom, Turkey, Poland, Morocco, Colombia, Chile, India, Brazil, USA and Saudi Arabia.

Adif’s participation in this field is part of its strategy, and that of the Ministry of Public Works, to support and strengthen the presence of Spanish companies in foreign markets, and to achieve greater efficiency in the management of public resources. Spanish presence in these international railway projects represents the consolidation of this new vision of exporting our technology and our experience to international projects, in which we invest for the benefit of the “Spain brand” and for financial profit.

Train in landscape


The interest shown by the USA is especially notable, taking the form of numerous visits to Spain by official delegations from the Department of Transportation, Congress, Senate, Federal Railroad Administration, several States and high-speed rail authorities. The visit by US Secretary of Transportation, Ray Lahood, resulted in the creation of a working group, already operating, to share information and boost technological cooperation between both countries.

We should highlight the work being done by Adif to implement high-speed rail in the USA, which is one of countries to show most interest in the technology developed by Adif. So much so that Adif has reached agreements to share its experience and know-how to develop high‑speed lines in the USA, especially in the fields of construction, quality control, management and maintenance of high-speed lines.


Turkish high-speed also speaks in Spanish. The first section of the Ankara-Istanbul HSL (between Ankara and Eskisehir), built by Spanish companies and using Spanish high-speed trains, had Adif and Renfe consultancy for its commissioning in March 2009. Adif specialists also contributed their expertise and extensive high-speed experience to put the Ankara-Konya HSL into service last August, with trains supplied by CAF and ERTMS system implementation by Dimetronic.

Adif offers its experience in managing and developing Spanish railway networks to play an active role in developing the Turkish railway. Adif specialists contribute their knowledge in areas ranging from construction techniques and maintenance and repair of high-speed tracks, to management, planning and regulation of railway traffic standards, using technologies such as ERTMS, ATP and the DaVinci traffic management system, for which Adif owns the intellectual property rights.


Another example of the good work being done internationally is the relationship with the Polish railway. In October 2008, Adif and PKP PLK, the Polish railway infrastructure manager, signed a cooperation agreement to facilitate the exchange of experience and innovation in rail technology between the two organisations.


We also collaborate closely with Russia, a country with which we have signed agreements covering various areas related to technology, operations, experience, studies, management, construction and maintenance of the railway infrastructure. Of particular note in this regard is the interest shown by Russian Railways in our experience in building and managing high-speed lines, in gauge changers, in station management and operation, and in finding Public-Private Collaboration solutions.

It should be noted in this regard that Russian Railways have embarked on an ambitious modernisation process that includes investment of 450,000 million dollars, up to the year 2030, in various areas of railway system management.

In this context, Fomento is promoting the creation of an international consortium of Spanish companies to bid for the contract to construct, and subsequently manage, the high-speed railway line that Russia plans to build between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

In addition, Russia has recently acquired seven trains with Talgo variable gauge technology for use on both domestic and international routes. In this regard, Adif will collaborate in the approval testing of these trains.


Furthermore, the DaVinci railway traffic control and management system developed by Indra, over which Adif has the intellectual property rights, is being implemented on Morocco’s railway network. The project, which began on 20th July 2009 with a budget of nearly three million euros, is considered by Adif as strategic, since it is the first full implementation of the DaVinci system in a foreign railway administration, and will also manage the future high-speed network in Morocco, for which construction has begun on the first line between Tangier and Kenitra.


Adif also works with Moroccan railways to provide advice on management of projects to re-evaluate railway station spaces, and on designing and sizing stations to take account of environmental aspects, urban integration, intermodality, customer service and commercial sales, along with other aspects to enable railway stations in Morocco to provide advanced services to their users.

Latin America

In Latin America, Adif provides technical assistance for the maintenance and development of the railway traffic management tool on the Greta Chiriguaná-Santa Marta section of North Colombia Railways (Fenoco). In addition, under a recently signed agreement with Acciona, Adif will support this company to bid for tenders to develop new railway corridors in Colombia, and to improve and refurbish existing lines, as part of the major modernisation plans promoted by the country’s Government for 2011-2014.

Adif is also present in Mexico, where it has created a corporation, comprising Ineco and Adif, to participate in the development of the Mexican National Plan for 2007-2012, with planned investments of 160,000 million euros.