High-Speed Lines

Madrid – Zaragoza - Barcelona - French Border Line

Madrid-Barcelona-French Border high-speed line map.

The Madrid-Zaragoza-Barcelona-French Border High-Speed Line, 804 kilometres long, is one of the main corridors of communication between Spain and Europe.

In 2008, the line connected the cities of Madrid and Barcelona. The Figueres-Perpignan section went into service since December 2010. In January 2013, the line was completed when the section between Barcelona and Figueres went into service.

In their first five years of operation, from 2008 to 2013, Renfe's Madrid-Zaragoza-Barcelona services have recorded a total of 27.2 million customers. Of these, almost 16 million correspond to the connections between Catalonia and Madrid.

Photo of authorities at the inauguration of the Barcelona-Figueres HSL

This infrastructure allows high-speed connections between the four provincial capitals of Catalonia, and from these to the rest of Spain, thus contributing to our country's territorial structure. The line is the backbone of the North-east Corridor, included in priority axis 3 for transport for the European Commission. It also represents a substantial part of the Mediterranean Rail Corridor, an infrastructure which, when constructed, will boost development along the length of the coast from Catalonia to Andalusia.

City of Barcelona and Sants Station


Track seen from the driver’s compartment

This high-speed line favours passenger transport between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. It links together the provincial capitals of Catalonia via one of the most advanced transport systems on the international stage, while also connecting them with Madrid, Zaragoza, other cities Spanish and France (since April 2013), and, once the direct high-speed passenger connection between Barcelona and Paris is in operation, with the rest of Europe.

This infrastructure is cohesive for the whole country and fuels its economic growth.

It links Spain's two most densely populated urban areas, Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Zaragoza and other cities such as Guadalajara, Calatayud, Zaragoza, Lleida, Tarragona, Girona and Figueres.

The benefits extend to other cities through the connections shown below.

Madrid with the North-Northeast corridors (Valladolid HSL), the East corridor (Valencia HSL) and the South corridor (Seville and Malaga HSL). With the inauguration of the complete line, there is now a corridor of over 1,200 km, from Figueres to Malaga, joining the northeastern and southern tips of Spain.

Zaragoza with the high-speed, international gauge Zaragoza-Huesca line.

Tarragona with the Mediterranean Corridor.

Further, thanks to the gauge change facilities in Plasencia de Jalón, the advantages extend to La Rioja and Navarre.

Another exclusive feature of this line is the design for mixed passenger and freight traffic (between the Port of Barcelona and the connection with France). This means there is a possibility of establishing new services with arrival or departure at intermodal centres in France and other European countries.

Moreover, this modern infrastructure brings a series of benefits, including: facilitating citizen mobility by reducing journey times, offering high standards of safety, quality, comfort, reliability and environmental and socioeconomic sustainability through full integration into the environment.


It runs over 804 kilometres from Madrid to Figueres.

The line's layout allows trains to run at speeds of up to 350 km/h on almost 86% of the route, although Renfe Operadora operates commercially at a maximum speed of 310 km/h, after entry into service of ERTMS Level 2 in 2011.


Sant Boi viaduct (Barcelona)


The construction design used was highly demanding so as to allow the development of maximum speeds of 350 km/h on commercial services and to guarantee interoperability in line with European regulations.

  • International gauge, compatible signalling system, standard electrification
  • Minimum 7000 m radius bends on the general track
  • Ramps under 2.5%
  • Maximum 140 mm slope
  • Junctions suitable for 350 km/h

The line has by-passes in Zaragoza, Lleida and Figueres so as not to affect route times for trains not stopping at said cities.

In addition, the Barcelona Port-Figueres section was designed for passenger and some freight traffic.

Safety Systems

Zaragoza Regulation and Control Centre
  • A train protection system monitoring safe operation in line with the information received from the signal boxes and with the conditions on the line track (ERTMS/ETCS system levels 1 and 2 and ASFA)
  • High-capacity, open multi-service fibre optic telecommunications network providing support for the other systems.
  • Monitoring and safety system: fallen objects detection, hot boxes, weather stations, video surveillance, intruder detection, etc.
  • Central Regulation System aimed at optimising global line operation.

The line also has a passenger information system providing real time information (next train, estimated arrival/stopping/departure time, platform, delay times, etc.)


Ebro River Viaduct

The origins date back to the 1980s. On 8th December 1988, the Cabinet approved the Madrid-Barcelona high-speed line project included in the Railway Transport Plan (PTF) approved a year earlier. The project did not include a line for speeds of 300 km/h but the doubling of track across the existing lines with new branches throughout. Finally, an independent UIC gauge infrastructure was decided on with high-speed parameters.

Twenty years were needed to complete a section crossing especially complicated areas such as the exit from Madrid, the Lleida-Martorell section and entry into Barcelona.

The first sections were put out to tender in 1993 and work started in 1995. The 443 kilometre Madrid-Zaragoza-Lleida section had an investment of 4.5 billion euro and came into service in October 2003 using Altaria and AVE Serie 100 trains from the Madrid-Seville line. At first, speeds of only 200 km/h were reached while a new signalling system - ERTMS level 1 -was being installed, allowing speeds to be increased gradually. In this way, in 2006, with the new system installed for the first time in Spain, AVE trains reached maximum speeds initially of 250 km/h, then 280 km/h and finally 300 km/h in May 2007. This considerably reduced journey times.

The stations on this initial section, as well as the departure terminus in Madrid-Puerta de Atocha, were Guadalajara-Yebes (new), Calatayud (remodelled and extended), Zaragoza-Delicias (new) and Lleida-Pirineus (remodelled).

The inaugural Lleida-Camp de Tarragona train (December 2006)

The first commercial service between Madrid and Barcelona ran in May 2006 with a variable gauge CAF Alvia train (120 series) which used a gauge changer located in Puigvert, Lleida, to continue the direct journey to Barcelona on the conventional track.

After an investment of 1.613 billion euros in December 2006, a further 108 kilometres on the line running from Lleida to Camp de Tarragona and the branch to Lleida were opened. The opening of this stretch was the first high-speed connection between Catalan provincial capitals.

Fourteen months later, in February 2008, the Tarragona-Barcelona section, covering 98 kilometres and with an investment of 2,653 billion Euros, was put into service, thus providing a high-speed connection between Spain's two biggest cities.

After a total investment of nearly 9 billion euro, the Madrid-Barcelona high-speed connection opened with a two-way journey by 103 series trains covering the distance in 2 hours 38 minutes.


The 131 kilometre Barcelona–Figueres section has involved investment of over 3,700 million Euros, not including funds assigned to works to adapt and build the stations of Barcelona Sants, Girona and Figueres Vilafant.  

The full opening of this stretch took place on 8th January 2013, in a ceremony presided over by HRH the Prince of Asturias.

Officials on the inaugural journey of the Barcelona-Figueres section

At first, more than half the length of the entire section (75 km) was used by freight trains running on two stretches, one between Mollet and Girona Mercancias and another in Figueres. Thus, the first journey of a UIC-gauge freight train on a high-speed line in Spain took place on 21st December 2010. The service is possible thanks to a combination of international gauge infrastructures with conventional network infrastructures where a third rail track has been installed.

Freight trains running between Mollet and Girona.

Two of the standout infrastructures to build between Barcelona and Figueres are the urban tunnels in Barcelona and Girona. Digging with tunnel boring machines ended in July 2010. Other outstanding infrastructures on the section include La Sagrera station (under construction), the second Montmeló urban tunnel and the Montcada i Reixac tunnel – also dug with a tunnel boring machine.

Girona tunnel boring (July 2010)

The Madrid-Barcelona line links with the international section at a new station – Figueres-Vilafant. This station is the transfer point for the Barcelona-Paris railway connection from December 2010.

Façade of Figueres Vilafant station

The corridor's end point, and where its links with the European high-speed networks, is the Figueres-Perpignan international section, in service since December 2010. This section is suitable for passenger and freight traffic. It was constructed by a Franco-Spanish consortium under concession, with an investment of 1,100 million Euros. It is 44.4 kilometres long, 19.8 of which are in Spain and 24.6 in France. The Pyrenees border has been by-passed with the 8.2 kilometre Perthus tunnel.

Perthus tunnel entries