The Daily Telegraph

Oversized trains in Spain have sent €258m down the drain

- By James Badcock in Madrid

A PAIR of blundering Spanish transport bosses have been sacked after they ordered dozens of commuter trains that were too big to pass through tunnels.

The mistake led to a blame game between Renfe, Spain’s national rail operator, and Adif, the track company, while the country’s Left-wing coalition government also came under fire for failing to notice the error.

Raquel Sanchez, the transport minister, admitted that an “error” had been made and promised those responsibl­e would be dismissed.

Renfe announced that its rolling stock manager had been fired along with Adif’s technology inspectora­te head. The trains must now be redesigned so they can pass safely through tunnels on their intended routes.

The first services will not begin until 2026 at the earliest, two years later than expected. The train designs were specifical­ly for narrow-gauge railways, which have track gauges narrower than the standard 1,435mm (4ft 8.5in). The 31 commuter trains cost €258million (£230million) and will serve the northern regions of Asturias and Cantabria.

Ms Sanchez insisted the trains were still in the design phase, minimising the cost of the design error.

Miguel Angel Revilla, the president of Cantabria, who has long complained of poor transport infrastruc­ture in his region, described the mix-up as an “outrageous botch-up”.

“When a project is launched, one assumes the company in charge knows what it has to provide,” he said.

“If it is a train, it has to know the width of the wheels and if the train has to go through a tunnel.” Isabel Rodriguez, a government spokesman, said that the confusion was “unacceptab­le” and that an inquiry had been opened.

In 2019, Renfe published a tender for a contract to acquire 31 trains to renew the fleet of its commuter and medium-distance network, mainly in the north of the country. In 2020, CAF, a manufactur­er based in the Basque Country, secured the contract to build the stock.

Renfe passed on the technical details of the trains required, saying that it took the measuremen­t specificat­ion from technical informatio­n provided by Adif on the track and tunnel infrastruc­ture.

“We don’t go and measure the tunnels; we simply take measuremen­ts from the company that owns the infrastruc­ture and include them in the specificat­ions of the contract,” sources from Renfe told La Nueva España, an Asturias newspaper.

“The problem is that the ‘official’ measuremen­ts of the tunnels do not correspond to reality,” they added.

‘The problem is that the “official” measuremen­ts of the tunnels do not correspond to reality’

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