Brussels asks to change the gauge of Spanish trains before 2030


The Russian invasion of Ukraine has accelerated the integration plans of the European Union, which is trying to become stronger and more connected within itself while advancing in the accession of external countries to its borders. Precisely to maintain the founding spirit of moving freely between different countries, the EU launched a interoperability policy at multiple levels, extending from the elimination of roaming phone to try to get a transeuropean transport network (TEN-T) that, through a series of arterial roads, facilitates the passage of people and goods through the different member states.

However, the geopolitical revolution caused by Moscow’s attack on Ukrainian territory and the problems in getting the crops out of Ukraine, until now Europe’s breadbasket, have changed the perspective of European bureaucrats, who now advocate improve your own connections and those of the neighbors to whom the Union allocates thousands of euros in investments. One of those ways that have become primordial is the railwayto meet the objectives of the European Green Deal and reduce energy dependence on fossil fuels.

The truth is that Europe has serious problems with its trainsbased mainly on the fact that a large part of its railway networks are built with different track widths, which prevents trains from one country from accessing another. The example is in the recent attempt by Spain to bring Ukrainian grain by train, whose containers will have to make two transfers (in France and Poland) in order to reach their destination, since both the Iberian Peninsula and the Ukraine have track gauges different from the standardized in Europe, known as “international gauge”, which separates both lanes by 1,435 millimeters (mm).

Although this is the one used in our country since the 1990s to develop the High Speed ​​network, the majority of conventional lines – on which freight trains circulate – do not have it implemented, affecting more than 14,000 kilometers of tracks and making it difficult for goods to leave Europe by train by increasing costs and time. All high-speed lines do have it implemented, but they are not adapted for goods, except for the Galician section. In Spain and Portugal, non-high-speed trains (Cercanías or Media Distancia) have been running since 1884 on tracks built with the Iberian gauge, 1,668 mm (equivalent to six Castilian feet); while in Ukraine and the Baltic countries the Russian gauge of 1,520 mm is applied, linked to the former Soviet space, which the EU now mistrusts.

The Mediterranean and Atlantic corridors must migrate in width before 2030.
The rest of the network will have until 2050.

The new Brussels rail plan, which still needs to become a regulation to be valid, will grant Spain for two years to develop a track gauge migration plan of all the lines integrated in the rail corridors that make up the TEN-T network. From then on, it will have until 2030 to execute it on those lines integrated into the European network, among which are the Mediterranean and Atlantic corridors. Thereafter, the migration will be extended to the secondary network by 2040 and the rest by 2050. In addition, will force all new investments to be made in UIC width, such as the future high-speed line between Lisbon and Porto, whose works have not started. Portugal intended to execute this section on Iberian gauge, but this new order will change its plans.

The Commission will allow all those lines that are not considered to be of European interest to be excluded from the plan, as has recently happened with the Tarancón-Utiel section belonging to the Madrid-Cuenca-Valencia conventional line. The plan is not limited to the Iberian Peninsula, as it also affects Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland, which has already been against the European order. In exchange, the European Commission proposes to extend European transport corridors to Ukraine and Moldova and to remove Belarus and Russia from existing plans.

At present, the European rail system is not interoperable, as it is not fully adapted for the free movement of goods, and remains to some extent limited to passengers. Of the five rail borders that Spain has with Europe (Portbou, Puigcerdà, Canfranc, Irún and El Pertús), only the latter has implemented the European standard width, but trains can only go as far as Barcelona. At borders such as Irun or Portbou, the containers have to change axles or transfer to other wagons to continue your journey. In others, such as Canfranc (Huesca), the plans are for France to recover the line that reached there decades ago, restoring its original character as an international station.


Source: LA INFORMACIÓN – Lo último by www.lainformacion.com.

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