Well, the AVE has been saved by Europe

Well, what do you know. Europe has, somewhat to my surprise, agreed to add the corredor mediterraneo to its European network plan, and will finish off the line. In fact, it’ s written a huge cheque to underwrite the Spanish and Portugese railways.

The coastal line will run through the provinces of Barcelona, Tarragona, Castellón, Valencia, Alicante, Murcia and Almería before diverting inland to Granada and carrying on to Seville. The EU will pay for the largest part of the line and says it expects it to be finished by 2020.

The community has also agreed to finance the Madrid – Lisbon line, which Portugal stopped earlier this year as part of austerity measures. The work will shortly recommence once a large cheque arrives. A separate Algeciras – Zaragoza-Madrid line will be finished off (it’s mainly there), which was originally meant to go into the south of Portugal.

My gut feeling had been that the EU would finish off the connections, but refuse to extend the network through Andalucia. However, the EU transport minister Siim Kallas, said that “we consider that the med corridor has links between Valencia and Seville, and it is acceptable for us to finish the project with the support of the affected regions”.

However, the EU flatly refused to finance a third passage through the Pyrenees, committing itself only to a nebulous “study” which will report by 2030. The northern route, half built, will however be finished off, giving Spain two high speed connections to France.

With this, the EU has basically agreed to finish off the high speed network through Spain and Portugal, at a cost of 32,000 million euros, by 2020, which will finance up to 85% of the cost of these projects (the other 15% must be paid for by the federal regions). The first of the money will be freed up in 2014, although the promise of the cash will allow Lisbon and Madrid to keep working on the plans without interruption.

The projects will now, El Mundo notes, be managed by Brussels, which has promised that all the projects will be finished by 2020. The European Investment Bank will shortly start to issue transport bonds on the international debt markets to start raising the cash.

A humiliation for Madrid and Lisbon? For Madrid, as it shows it can’ t afford these massive infrastructure projects and must in future scale back its ambitions (Madrid has already recognised that its days of building huge roads are over). For Lisbon, it’s perfect, as it shows the EU is ready to pump vast wads of cash into the nation, albeit via construction projects rather than the debt markets. I expect ZP can live with it.

later:  The Ave almeria map  (in pdf)

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