Tunnelbuilder Promoting the world's tunnelling industry to a huge qualified audience

View the Spanish Tunnelbuilder website View the Italian Tunnelbuilder website

King Juan Carlos Inaugurates Madrid to Lleida HSL

King Juan Carlos Inaugurates Madrid to Lleida HSLKing Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia inaugurated on 10th October the Madrid to Lleida high speed line during a inaugural trip which took four hours to cover 442 km. The journey was divided in four stages with stops in Guadalajara, Calatayud and Saragossa, where the royal couple unveiled commemorative plates celebrating the commissioning of the line. Commercial service commenced on 11th October.The King and Queen travelled accompanied by Francisco Álvarez Cascos - the minister of development, Loyola de Palacio - the vice-president of the European Commission, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón president of the Madrid region and recently elected mayor of the Spanish capital, Ramón Escribano and Miguel Corsini - respectively presidents of GIF and Renfe. Also on board were, amongst others, Marcelino Oreja - president of construction group FCC, Rafael del Pino - president of Ferrovial, and Juan Miguel Villar Mir - president of OHL and the Spanish Institute of Civil Engineers.The inaugural trip took place ten months after a failed attempt to open the line last February. The rolling stock used was an Alstom train used since 1992 by Renfe on the Madrid-Sevilla line. The 32 trainsets ordered to Siemens and Taldo-Bombardier will not be available before mid-2004 and the safety and signalling system ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) will not be operating before the second half of next year. Meanwhile, the high speed trains will run at only 175 km per hour instead of the planned 300 km per hour. The ERTMS system will unify the railway signalling and safety systems in the EU countries allowing trans-national high speed connections.Construction of the Madrid-Lleida high speed link started in 1997, took 90 months to complete and required a €4.5 billion investment. This represents €9.4 million per kilometre. €2.26 billion has been spent to build the structures, €840 million for trackwork, €382 million for signalling and traffic management, €332 million for electric supply and nearly €250 million for the stations. The line crosses five autonomous regions, six provinces and 69 municipalities. It required the building of 28 tunnels (25.8 km altogether), the longest of which is the Paracuellos tunnel (4,672 m), and 97 viaducts (27.9 km in all). Other notable tunnels are Las Hechiceras (3,064 m), Bubierca (2,433 m) and Sagides (1,732 m).The Ministry of development and GIF repeated that safety is absolute despite the criticisms of Aragon's geological society warning that no building precaution had been taken at different places along the line where the subsoil is plagued with problems. The ministry, GIF and construction or maintenance companies have repeatedly denied this and have guaranteed that those geological problems have been taken into account during construction and addressed with the proper techniques.The ground on which the high speed line has been built poses two problems. First, expansive clays located between Pina de Ebro and Bujaraloz and secondly the presence of karstic troughs in the surroundings of Saragossa. In Pina de Ebro, the ministry rebuilt several kilometres of track deformed by underground instability and installed a drainage and waterproofing system in a 15 km section. Regarding the second problem, the geologists stress that the well-known presence of troughs near Saragossa requires to build in the most risky zones a concrete structure that, in case of collapse, would act as a bridge. The engineers responsible for the construction said this technique would be counter-productive and insisted that the most adequate and safest construction method is the one chosen, which consisted in excavating the risky zones until reaching safe layers and filling up with earth and non-soluble compound. Read E-News Weekly 13/2003 & 12/2003.Building of the second stage to Barcelona is very delayed. It was initially planned that high speed trains would link Madrid and Barcelona in 2004 but the route alignment in Catalonia and the stops in Barcelona have been the subject of endless controversy. Extending the line up to the French border, where connection with the French network is now expected for 2009 instead of 2005, is also very much behind schedule further to the failed attempt to award the international section between Figueras and Perpignan, thus requiring to rebid the project. Four bidders including the French and Spanish main construction firms have just submitted their offer to bag the construction and operation contract for this 45.5 km link, which includes a twin 8.7 km cross-border tunnel under the Perthus Pass. The cost to build the line from Madrid to the French border was estimated in July at €8,156 million. Click es/16. Visit www.gif.es 43/03.