The road between Madrid and Barcelona, Spain’s two largest cities and the country’s economic centers, stretches nearly 400 miles. By automobile, this trip takes about six hours. But by high-speed rail, which cruises smoothly at an average of 200 mph, the trip takes just over 2.5 hours.
The Madrid-Barcelona line opened in early 2008 and is one of the key achievements of the Spanish high-speed rail network, which has garnered praise around the world. Spain’s web of more than 1,800 miles of high-speed lines is centered on Madrid and also links cities along its coasts; the country is second only to China in high-speed track mileage. Spain was also the first country to equip its high-speed network with the most advanced signalling system, which will eventually become the European standard.
This domestic experience has given Spanish companies expertise in rail construction and management, train building, signalling, and the accompanying telecommunications and control systems that high-speed rail demands to compete on the international market. Spanish companies have completed or are involved in rail projects in more than 90 countries on five continents, including Turkey, Brazil, the U.S., India and Ireland, and countries across North Africa and Central Asia.
In the most significant news for the Spanish rail industry, a consortium of a dozen Spanish companies and public authorities was recently awarded a 12-year contract to construct, operate, and maintain a new high-speed line between Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, in partnership with the Saudi Railway Organization. This rail consortium is the largest one created to date by Spanish companies, and the project is the largest so far of its kind.
Advances in transportation management extend beyond railways, onto highways and city roads as well. Spanish companies are world leaders in the management of toll roads, expert at developing and integrating sensors and barrier-free tolls to enhance traffic flow and make ticketing easy. Other companies are pioneering parking guidance systems, which direct drivers to free spots in parking garages or along city streets.