Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line

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Madrid–Barcelona (- Figueres) high-speed rail line
RENFE Class 103 Vinaixa.jpg
AVE Class 103 (Siemens Velaro) near Vinaixa
TypeHigh-speed rail
LocaleSpain (Community of Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha,
Aragon, Catalonia)
TerminiMadrid Puerta de Atocha
Barcelona Sants/Figueres Vilafant
Ridership8.7 million (Madrid-Barcelona-French border, 2017)[1]
Opened2008 (first section in 2003)
Operator(s)Renfe Operadora
Rolling stockAVE Class 103, 100, and 112
Line length620.9 km (385.8 mi) (as far as Barcelona)
748.9 km (465.3 mi) (as far as Figueres)
Number of tracksDouble track
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification25 kV 50 Hz
Route map
0.0 km Madrid Atocha
to Seville
24.7 km
Jarama (2236 m)
64.4 km Guadalajara–Yebes
116.0 km
Las Inviernas
182.7 km
Ariza AV
221.1 km Calatayud
Paracuelos (4763 m)
272.9 km
Plasencia de Jalón
294.9 km
Junction Moncasí
306.7 km Zaragoza–Delicias
311.7 km
Junction to Huesca
315.8 km
Canal Imperial
356.5 km Bujaraloz
396.8 km Ballobar
403.7 km
Cinca (870 m)
434.6 km
Les Torres de Sanuí
442.1 km Lleida Pirineus
452.5 km
448.6 km
452.5 km
456.6 km
Las Borjas
488.9 km La Espluga
509.3 km
512.8 km Mediterranean Corridor
520.9 km Camp de Tarragona
534.7 km
549.3 km
La Gornal
552.7 km Arbós
565.9 km Villafranca del Panadés
579.6 km
future Barcelona avoiding line
Llobregat (Pallejá)
595.8 km
San Vicente dels Horts
Llobregat (San Juan Despí)
610.4 km
Llobregat (San Baudilio)
Barcelona–Vilanova line
El Prat
Río Llobregat
Direction Can Tunis
Provença Tunnel, Sants–La Sagrera
620.9 km Barcelona Sants L3 barcelona.svg L5 barcelona.svg Rodalies de Catalunya símbol.svg
Perpignan–Barcelona high-speed rail line starts
Barcelona Sagrera L4gris.svg L9gris.svg Rodalies de Catalunya símbol.svg
Barcelona avoiding line
662.1 km
Llinars (crossover)
678.1 km
703.5 km
Viloví de Oñar
714.7 km Girona
Vilademuls crossover
748.9 km Figueres–Vilafant
new station for both lines
752.4 km International section Figueres-Perpignan
French - Spanish Border
to Perpignan and the TGV network

The Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line is a 621-kilometre (386 mi) standard gauge railway line inaugurated on 20 February 2008. Designed for speeds of 350 km/h (217 mph) and compatibility with neighbouring countries' rail systems, it connects the cities of Madrid and Barcelona in 2 hours 30 minutes. In Barcelona the line is connected with the Perpignan–Barcelona high-speed rail line leading into France which connects it to the European high speed network.

First stages[edit]

In 2003 construction of the first phase of a new standard gauge line from Madrid to the French border (Madrid–Zaragoza–Lleida) was completed and on 11 October of that year commercial service began. This service also stopped at Guadalajara–Yebes and Calatayud. The service began running at only 200 km/h (124 mph). On 19 May 2006, after two years of operation, speed was increased to 250 km/h (155 mph) when the Spanish ASFA signalling system was replaced with level 1 of the new European ETCS/ERTMS system. On 16 October 2006 the trains on this line increased their operating speed to 280 km/h (174 mph).

On 18 December 2006 the AVE started operating to Camp de Tarragona, and on 7 May 2007 the service increased its speed to the maximum allowable for the line, 300 km/h (186 mph). This puts Tarragona at 30 minutes from Lleida. The extension to Barcelona was delayed various times due to technical problems; the Ministerio de Fomento having originally forecast the AVE's arrival in Barcelona by the end of 2007.[2]

Complete operation[edit]

The complete line was opened February 2008. As of 2012, seventeen trains now run every day between the hours of 6 am and 9 pm, covering the distance between the two cities in just 2 hours 30 minutes for the direct trains, and in 3 hours and 10 minutes for those calling at all intermediate stations. Before the high-speed line was built, the journey between the two cities took more than six hours; and when the high speed line went only as far as Tarragona, 3 hours 45 minutes, operated with the Alvia service (120 series train), which continued on the conventional line to Barcelona, after a change of rail gauge.


It was originally forecast that, after reaching Barcelona in 2004, the line would run at 350 km/h (217 mph), the maximum capable speed of the new Siemens AVE trains which have replaced the Talgo Bombardier AVE S102, after the installation of level 2 of the ETCS/ERTMS. But on the AVE's first day of operating at 300 km/h (186 mph) to Tarragona the Minister of Public Works, Magdalena Álvarez, stated that the maximum commercial operating speeds of the AVE on all lines would be 300 km/h (186 mph).[3] Nevertheless, in October 2011 the speed was raised to 310 km/h on parts of the railway.[4]


It was forecast that the AVE would substantially replace air traffic on the Barcelona - Madrid route (in the same way that the Eurostar has on the London-Paris/London-Brussels routes and France's TGV has on the Paris-Lyon route). Indeed, by the end of 2017, the line had already taken 63% of the traffic, stealing most of it from aircraft.[5] A few years before the Madrid-Barcelona route was the world's busiest passenger air route in 2007 with 971 scheduled flights per week (both directions).[6] Similarly more than 80% of travellers between Madrid and Seville use the AVE, with fewer than 20% travelling by air.[7]


There was criticism during the construction of the Madrid-Barcelona line. A critical report by the consulting firm KPMG, commissioned by ADIF (Administrador de Infraestructuras Ferroviarias) at the behest of the Ministry for Public Works (Ministerio de Fomento) on 23 June 2004, pointed to a lack of in-depth studies and over-hasty execution of works as the most important reasons for the problems that dogged construction of the AVE line. For example, during the construction of the AVE tunnel near Barcelona, a number of nearby buildings suffered damage from a sinkhole that appeared near a commuter rail station, damaging one of its platforms. The construction committee of Barcelona's famed Sagrada Familia church lobbied for a re-routing of the tunnel - it passes within metres of the massive church's foundations. It also passes equally near the UNESCO-recognized Casa Milà also designed by Antoni Gaudí.

Furthermore, until 2005 both Siemens and Talgo/Bombardier train sets failed to meet scheduled speed targets, although in a test run during the homologation tests of the new S102 trains of RENFE, a train-set Talgo 350 (AVE S-102) reached a speed of 365 km/h (227 mph) on the night of the 25/26 June 2006, and in July 2006 a Siemens Velaro train-set (AVE S-103) reached the highest top speed ever in Spain: 403.7 km/h (250.8 mph). At this time, it was a record for railed vehicles in Spain and a world record for unmodified commercial service trainsets, as the earlier TGV and ICE records were achieved with specially modified and shortened trainsets, and the 1996 Shinkansen record of 443 km/h (275 mph) was using a test (non-commercial) trainset.

Planned services in 2012
At Paracuellos de la Ribera
Overview map of the high-speed connections from Barcelona towards France, with the year of opening

Extension to France[edit]

Barcelona to Figueres[edit]

Originally planned to open in 2009, the extension of some Madrid-Barcelona routes to Figueres–Vilafant railway station via Girona, opened on 7 January 2013. This made possible upon the completion of the 131-kilometre (81.4 mi) Barcelona-Figueres section of the Perpignan–Barcelona high-speed rail line that connected for first time the Spanish AVE high-speed network with the French TGV high-speed network.[8] There have been delays in building a four kilometre tunnel in Girona, the first phase of which was finished in September 2010,[9] and controversy over the route between Sants and Sagrera stations in Barcelona.[10] As of January 2013 there are eight trains a day running from Madrid, connecting at Figueres Vilafant with two TGV services to Paris.[11]

Figueres to Perpignan[edit]

This is an international high speed rail section between France and Spain. The section connects two cities on opposite sides of the border, Perpignan in Roussillon, France, and Figueres in Catalonia, Spain. It consists of a 44.4-kilometre (27.6 mi) railway which crosses the FrenchSpanish border via the Perthus Tunnel, an 8.3-kilometre (5.2 mi) tunnel bored under the Perthus Pass.[12] The section is open to high speed trains and freight. Construction was completed in February 2009, although services did not run until a station was built on the line at Figueres. As of March 2015, a daily TGV service connects Paris to Barcelona Sants via Perpignan-Figueres with 2 pairs of trips, plus other connections involving Lyon, Marseille, and Toulouse.[13]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "El AVE Madrid-València, el que más sube, iguala en viajeros al de Sevilla". www.levante-emv.com (in Spanish). 19 January 2019. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  2. ^ "La Vanguardia, 18 December 2006". Archived from the original on 28 November 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2008.
  3. ^ La Vanguardia, 7 May 2007
  4. ^ Madrid - Barcelona at 310 km/h with ETCS Level 2
  5. ^ Barcelona-Madrid high-speed line has had more than 85 million passengers 21 February 2018
  6. ^ Air passenger transport in Europe in 2007
  7. ^ Juan Carlos Martín and Gustavo Nombela, "Microeconomic impacts of investments in high speed trains in Spain", Annals of Regional Science, vol. 41, no. 3, September 2007
  8. ^ "Spain completes Iberia's high-speed link to Europe". International Railway Journal. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  9. ^ "Railway Gazette: Girona tunnelling makes progress". Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  10. ^ "Perpignan-Barcelona AVE to open in 2012 or .... 2020?". Today's railways Europe, Issue 140. August 2007. p. 10.
  11. ^ "Barcelona - Figueres high speed rail line to open on January 7". International Rail Journal. 10 December 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  12. ^ "Perpignan-Figueras High-speed Rail Line". Structurae. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  13. ^ "Spain—closer than ever before". SNCF. Retrieved 3 March 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°36′34″N 0°13′15″E / 41.6094°N 0.2207°E / 41.6094; 0.2207