‘Unspeakable’ embarrassment as Spain spend £230m on trains too big for tunnels

Spain has splashed out €258million (£230m) on an "unspeakable botch" that meant a new fleet of trains are too big to travel through its railway tunnels.

Two transport bosses have been sidelined since the embarrassing blunder was exposed by local newspaper El Comercio last month.

The 31 commuter trains were ordered by national railway company Renfe in 2020, and are expected to replace an ageing fleet in the poorly connected northern regions of Asturias and Cantabria.

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Due for completion in 2024, the much-needed update is now likely to be delayed until at least 2026, despite the manufacturer – the Basque-based CAF – raising the issue almost two years ago.

President Miguel Angel Revilla has described it “an unspeakable botch” adding that “heads must roll", according to Spanish regional newspaper El Diario Montanes.

According to Euronews, various parties played a part in the debacle, including Renfe, rail infrastructure manager Adif, CAF and the State Agency for Railway Safety.

After granting the manufacturing contract to CAF, Renfe says it provided measurements based on infrastructure specifications provided by Adif, with CAF later warning that the specifications may not be correct.

The region’s rail network crosses a mountainous landscape and was built in the 19th century, meaning that it has varying tunnel sizes that do not meet standardised modern dimensions.

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Two senior officials have apparently been dismissed – a Renfe rolling stock manager and Adif’s head of inspection and track technology.

Spain’s transport minister Raquel Sanchez has launched an internal inquiry into who knew about the issue and why it wasn’t raised earlier, although the country's head of infrastructure, Xavier Flores, has admitted that he was made aware of the issue months ago.

As the trains were still in the design phase, they have not actually been manufactured yet, and will now be made using the dimensions of a loco that already runs on the network.


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