Spain Plans Expansion of HSR Network
Spain is mired in a deep recession, caused by a mindless and insane commitment to austerity. But there are some bright spots amidst the darkness. One of them is that Spain is planning a 21% increase in high speed rail spending in 2014:
Rail spending will increase by 21% from €3.78bn this year to €4.58bn in 2014.
The bill, which requires parliamentary approval before the end of the year, will allow the government to invest €3.2bn in the high-speed rail network. With more than 1200km of new lines still under construction, the government has prioritised the completion of the route connecting Madrid to the Ourense – Santiago line. It will invest €1bn in this project and the Santiago – Vigo corridor. However, the high-speed budget is insufficient to bridge the widening gap between Spain’s ambitious plans to extend the network simultaneously towards the 15 mainland regions, and the budgetary constraints imposed by the country’s deepest economic crisis in decades.
Plans to convert the broad-gauge Barcelona – Valencia main line to dual gauge will receive a major boost once the bill is passed, with €306m allocated for the installation of a third rail to allow standard-gauge trains to use the line.
In other words, Spain ought to be doing more to develop its rail network, above and beyond the expanded funding for 2014. And that is an accurate assessment. Spain’s current economic crisis is the product of not enough spending. The government needs to be increasing spending across the board in all areas, not just rail, if it is to escape its current economic crisis.
Some will likely argue that Spain should use this money elsewhere. But that’s the problem with austerity – it unnecessarily pits worthy projects and services against each other. Spain is doing the right thing by increasing its spending on rail by 21%. It should follow that up by increasing spending of all kinds by 21% if not more.