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Spain’s high-speed trains are poor value

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ATOCHA STATION in Madrid is a every day marvel. From its platforms a phalanx of glossy white high-speed trains, often called AVEs, streak throughout Spain. Punctual and comfy, they’ve slashed journey occasions in a big and mountainous nation lengthy infamous for poor transport. For Spaniards, they are an icon of modernity. However many are not well worth the money spent on them, says a brand new report by the impartial fiscal authority (AIREF from its Spanish initials).

Over the previous three many years Spain has poured money into transport infrastructure, together with motorways and airports in addition to AVEs. It now has 3,086km (1,929 miles) of high-speed rail traces (over 250km per hour), second solely to China. Passenger numbers have nearly doubled previously decade, because the AVEs have grabbed enterprise from home flights. Even so, per kilometre of monitor, there are lower than a 3rd as many as in France.

The community has value €61bn ($72bn) thus far. AIREF has now carried out the primary thorough cost-benefit examine of the trains. It finds that the advantages, together with to the atmosphere, are lower than the entire value, although it thinks that would finally change for the traces from Madrid to Seville and to Barcelona. However there are plans for an additional 5,654km of high-speed traces, at a value of at the very least €73bn. Much better, says AIREF, to invest in uncared for commuter networks, which carry 89% of rail customers. It urges the establishing of an impartial company to set transport priorities and consider initiatives.

The Socialist-led authorities broadly welcomed the report. It could discover it onerous to implement. One downside is that among the pending traces are half-built, equivalent to these to Galicia and within the Basque Nation. It could make sense to complete them. “The necessary factor is to cease new traces beginning,” says Ángel de la Fuente of Fedea, a think-tank. Since they’d serve less-populated areas, they’d have even fewer passengers.

Locations that lack high-speed trains understandably really feel ignored. Take Extremadura, the poorest area of mainland Spain: historical diesels take six hours to cowl the 400km between Madrid and Badajoz. The covid-19 disaster implies that money might be particularly tight. However Spain’s Congress is extra fragmented than ever. That implies that the value of an important vote is usually the promise of one more high-speed monitor.

This text appeared within the Europe part of the print version beneath the headline “The sign turns to purple”

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