Spanish Rail Network On Track To Be World’s Largest
Everyone is going high-speed:
To sell his vision of a high-speed train network to the American public, President Barack Obama this week cited Spain, a country most people don’t associate with futuristic bullet trains.
Yet the country is on track to bypass France and Japan to have the world’s biggest network of ultrafast trains by the end of next year, figures from the International Union of Railways and the Spanish government show.
The growth of the Alta Velocidad Española, or AVE, is having a profound effect on life in Spain, where many people have been fiercely attached to their home regions and reluctant to live or even travel elsewhere. Those centuries-old habits are starting to change as Spain stitches its regions together with a €100 billion ($130 billion) system of 218-mile-an-hour bullet trains.
While this system seems awesome and has gotten some great reviews, tickets aren’t cheap yet. For example, the lowest tickets (at least for this summer) between Barcelona and Madrid are around €109-110, (about $141), one way. (For a comparison of different modes of transportation for the same distance in Spain, check out this post I did a few weeks ago.) I am a huge supporter of pushing high-speed rail, not only because it is better for the environment and reduces dependence on oil, it’s also just less hassle than flying. However, it needs to be more affordable, or more people aren’t going to take it.
Also, while Spain might have only spent $130 on its rail system, it’s not a model we can exactly copy considering the country is about the size of Arizona and Utah combined. Our system will be exponentially more expensive, which is further justification that $8 billion plus $1 billion more per year is simply not enough.