The train incident in Extremadura At the beginning of the year, the debate on the state of the conventional railway network and the model chosen for the country by the political parties in their determined commitment to high speed has again been put on the table. Only this way it is explained that the public investments executed in the last decade (2008-2018) destined to the high speed ascend to 31,414 million euros, whereas to the routes by which the trains of Average Distance and Cercanías circulate only 6.388 million, according to data from Adif to which El País has had access. This investment neglect also translates into an obsolete train park, since one third of the locomotives of Renfe that cover the regional lines is more than 30 years old, and since 2006 has not reconvened a contest to renew the material.
To explain the Extremadura railway chaos, several circumstances come together. The first is the scarce investment of the State in the region, only 2.6% of the national total. But all the others have to do with the railway model. The conventional rail network has more than 13,000 kilometers in front of the 3,000 of the AVE. Despite this, almost all investments are aimed at expanding the latter. The AVE has become a political claim as health or pensions. All those responsible for the autonomous communities, regardless of their political color, demand that the AVE stop in its main cities, regardless of the population or travelers.
Spain has the widest network per inhabitant in the world and the second one per length, second only to that of China. But it also has the most empty network. The Spanish AVE has less than 15 travelers per kilometer, by 50 in France, 84 in Germany, 63 in China and 166 in Japan, according to the International Union of Railways (UIC). This data indicates that many AVE lines are not justified by potential travelers who can transfer. This effort to bring the fast train to each provincial capital drains the funds for the expansion and maintenance of the conventional network, which is the one that truly structures the territory and is used by 80% of the travelers.
The European Court of Auditors, in a devastating report made public last June, noted that the high-speed rail lines are an "inefficient mosaic" without a realistic long-term plan in which delays and extra costs are "the norm". In the same line, geographers warned that high-speed lines have been a waste or inadequate allocation of public money of 26,240 million euros in the last two decades.
Even the Administration itself admits this investment asymmetry. "In recent legislatures, the successive governments of both signatures have focused their priority attention on high speed, and it is true that we have achieved an enviable network for many countries around us, but we are obliged in an exercise of responsibility to return to direct our eyes and our work to the conventional network, which is the essence of our rail system and which needs a strong investment during the next few years ". This is how Juan Bravo, the previous president of Adif, the company in charge of railway infrastructures, said last April when he presented the latest estimates.
Despite this appeal, Adif executed investments in 2018 (with data closed to November 30) of 1,172.4 million euros in AVE lines and 336.9 went to stop the conventional network, according to public company data. That is, more than three of four euros of the investment in railway infrastructures go to AVE.
The pillory of the crisis
In general, successive governments have eliminated the commitment to railroad from their priorities. Adif investments have been cut significantly due to the crisis. In 2018, the investment executed will represent little more than a quarter of 2010, when a maximum effort was reached, allocating 4,890 million euros to AVE lines and 1,170 million euros to the rest.
In the plane of rolling stock (trains and locomotives), Renfe's responsibility, we find the same investment negligence. The park that runs along the lines of Media Distancia is quite old. It is composed of 32 diesel locomotives of the 592 series, with 38.7 years of average age; 17 of the 596 Series, with 35.8 years of age; 21 of the 594 Series of 20.9 years on average; 20 of the Series 598 of 14.8 years and 50 of the Series 599 vehicles of 9.5 years old.
The former Renfe officials, both during the José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Mariano Rajoy governments, completely paralyzed the investment in rolling stock for the conventional network. The last contract was awarded in 2006 to CAF for 588 million for the purchase of 107 trains for Media Distancia services. The new team chaired by Isaías Táboas has promised unblock the situation and tender tenders for the purchase of trains for 3,000 million euros for Cercanías and regional trains in this first quarter of the year.