Rail transport in Spain

Rail transport in Spain operates on four rail gauges and services are operated by a variety of private and public operators. The total route length in 2012 was 16,026 km (10,182 km electrified).[3]

AVE Tarragona-Madrid.jpg
High-speed AVE train, Madrid-Barcelona line.
National railwayRenfe Operadora
Infrastructure companyAdif
Major operatorsRENFE, FEVE, EuskoTren, FGC, FGV
Ridership507 million (RENFE, 2018)[1]
87.2 million (FGC, 2018)[2]
System length
Total16,026 km (9,958 mi)
Electrified10,182 km (6,327 mi)
Track gauge
Broad gauge
1,668 mm (5 ft 5 2132 in)
11,829 km (7,350 mi)
Standard gauge
1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
3,100 km (1,900 mi)
Metre gauge
1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
1,926 km (1,197 mi)
Narrow gauge
914 mm (3 ft)
28 km (17 mi)
3000 V DCMain network
25 kV ACHigh-speed lines, recent electrification
Longest tunnelSierra de Guadarrama, 28.4 km (17.6 mi)
Red actual de ferrocarriles de España.svg

Most railways are operated by Renfe Operadora; metre and narrow-gauge lines are operated by FEVE and other carriers in individual autonomous communities. It is proposed and planned to build or convert more lines to standard gauge,[4] including some dual gauging of broad-gauge lines, especially where these lines link to France, including platforms to be heightened.

Spain is a member of the International Union of Railways (UIC). The UIC Country Code for Spain is 71.


The first railway line in the Iberian Peninsula was built in 1848 between Barcelona and Mataró.[5] In 1851 the Madrid-Aranjuez line was opened. In 1852 the first narrow gauge line was built; in 1863 a line reached the Portuguese border. By 1864 the Madrid-Irun line had been opened, and the French border reached.[5]

In 1900 the first line to be electrified was the La Poveda-Madrid.[6]

In 1941 RENFE was created.[5]

The last steam locomotive was withdrawn in 1975, in 1986 the maximum speed on the railways was raised to 160 km/h, and in 1992 the Madrid-Seville high-speed line opened,[5] beginning the process of building a nationwide high-speed network.

The current plans of the Spanish government plans to link all the provincial capitals with high-speed rail, with a total estimated length of over 9000 km[7] of high-speed railways for 2020.

Following the opening of the AVE network, the classic Iberian gauge railways have lost importance in inter-city travel, for example, the Madrid–Barcelona railway takes over nine hours to travel between the two cities stopping at every station. With the Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line, the longest possible journey is just three hours.[8] This has allowed the conventional lines to increase focus on regional and commuter traffic, along with freight. Some lines, including the Córdoba-Bobadilla section of the classic Córdoba–Málaga railway, have lost passenger traffic completely due to the opening of AVE serving the same destinations.

Many important Spanish towns remain disconnected to the rail network, the largest being Marbella with a population of over 140,000, along with Chiclana de la Frontera (pop. 83,000) and Torrevieja (pop. 82,000). Others are not on the national rail network but linked to light rail or metro systems, such as Getxo, Biscay (pop. 80,000); Torrent, Valencia (pop. 79,000); and Benidorm, Alicante (pop. 69,000).


  • Renfe Operadora is a state-owned company which operates freight and passenger trains on the 1,668 mm (5 ft 5 2132 in) "Iberian gauge", 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge and 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge rail networks of the Spanish nationalized infrastructure company ADIF (Spanish: Administrador de Infraestructuras Ferroviarias). Both were formed from the break-up of the former national carrier RENFE (Spanish: Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Españoles, "Spanish National Railway Network") and subsequently of FEVE (Spanish: Ferrocarriles Españoles de Vía Estrecha, "Narrow-Gauge Spanish Railways").
  • Zamora station

  • Toledo station

  • Atocha station, Madrid

  • Estació del Nord, Valencia

  • Lleida-Pirineus station

Metro/light rail systemsEdit

Narrow gauge linesEdit

In Spain there is an extensive 1,250 km (780 mi) system of metre gauge railways

Conventional Iberian gauge linesEdit

High-speed standard gauge linesEdit

Rail links with adjacent countriesEdit

Andorra has no rail system.


In 2004, the Spanish government adopted a new strategic plan for transportation through 2020 called the PEIT (Strategic Plan for Infrastructures and Transport). This detailed rail subsidies of around €9.3 billion annually on average from 2005-2020. In 2010, it rolled out a two-year plan to invest an extra €11 billion each year for two years, as a part of a financial stimulus in response to the global downturn.[9] In 2015, the federal budget for the railways was €5.1 billion.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "RENFE ridership growth continues". International Railway Journal. 26 July 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  2. ^ "Memòria de Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya" (PDF). Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya. 2018. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  3. ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Spain
  4. ^ Verkehrsrundschau, 2007-04-30
  5. ^ a b c d Significant events in the history of Spanish infrastructures and railways Archived 2009-09-04 at the Wayback Machine www.fomento.es. See also www.biada.com
  6. ^ Ferrotransmadrid Archived 2013-10-12 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Descubre la Alta Velocidad Archived 2009-02-11 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Horarios PDF - Renfe.com". Renfe. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  9. ^ "Global Competitiveness in the Rail and Transit Industry p. 20-21" (PDF).
  10. ^ "Spanish railways battle profit loss with more investment". 17 September 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2016.

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