Transport in Spain – Part 2

Spain as a country has developed its road infrastructure massively since the 1960s. The country has needed to do this as a result of huge numbers of French tourists who visit the country each year. The land border in the northern part of the country means that the majority of tourists arriving from France do so overland.

The autopista in Spain

Between 1990 and 2012 the motorway system in Spain grew faster than anywhere else in Europe. There are two main types of highways, autopistas and autovias. The autopistas are newer types of roads and do not allow vehicles that cannot travel up to 35 mph. They include many toll roads and the speed limit can reach as high as 75mph.

The autovias are the old roads that were built prior to 1990. They are toll free and will allow most traffic on them. They have usually been upgraded and still allow vehicles to travel quickly along their routes.

Road travel is popular in Spain and this has led to a number of different car manufacturers in the country. The thirteen separate factories result in the second highest production of cars of any country in Europe. The specialist skills that have been acquired by the Spanish workforce has resulted in these companies concentrating in Spain.

They are all overseas companies that have moved their factories into Spain and SEAT is the only company left that has any connection with the country, even though it is now a subsidiary company of Volkswagen.

An increasingly popular way of getting around Spain is by train. Each cities’ train station is often a magnificent form of architecture and the government is committed to linking all the provincial capitals by high speed rail routes. This, when completed, will have a length of over 9000 km.

The Barcelona-Madrid high speed train

Currently the Madrid-Barcelona high speed rail line has passengers travelling the 620 km in 2 and a half hours. The trains can travel at speeds of up to 350kmph but in reality it never travels faster than 310km. The high speed train can then travel from Barcelona to Perpignan in France, which means that the route can be extended so that Paris is now reached in 7 hours from Barcelona.

The biggest difference that the development of the high speed rail network will have will be to open the rest of the country to the northern regions. The Madrid Levante rail network will connect the capital city to Castilla La Mancha, Mercia and the region surrounding Valencia and this will incorporate many of the Mediterranean coastal resorts.

Some of the largest cities in Spain have suffered due to traffic congestion. The way the local authorities have attempted to overcome this is by installing underground rail systems. Barcelona, Madrid Bilbao and Valencia all have transit systems in place.

The largest and oldest system operates in Madrid with 300 stations served by the 13 different lines. This results in 3 million people using the transit in Madrid every day. In their enthusiasm to keep cars off the streets, the authorities subsidize the cost so that it is great value to use this public transport.