Budget ombudsman begs Government to stop wasting money on more AVE track

The tribunal de cuentas, the people in charge of auditing government accounts (strikes me they could do more with a slide rule, but still) have said the AVE investment programme is unsustainable and recommended that all investment in the project be dropped.

Spain has over 3.000 km of high speed railway but is insisting upon building more and more. The current track runs at a loss – the operating debt of the state company (ADIF) that runs it stands at over 18 billion euros – and the State still plans to invest a further 30 billion euros into expanding the network over the next 15 years. Ratings company Fitch reckons ADIF has a further 12 billion euros of outstanding debt that isn’t quite declared as such.

Last year, the State had to give ADIF an emergency loan of 2.7 billion euros to keep it going after the company was ordered to upgrade all 30kph restriction zones in the wake of the Galician AVE derailment disaster.

The tribual de cuentas has said it loud and clear: the current network is run at an “unsustainable” loss and the future investment in the network is unnecessary and prohibitively expensive. What’s more, most transport experts seem to agree that Spain would be better off upgrading its older merchant stock and lines than continuing to invest in high speed passenger rail.

Meanwhile, Almería still has a large tunnel and 12 km of track (cost: about a billion euros) that is sitting mouldering under the sun because there is no more money to connect it to anything.

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