AVE

From Academic Kids

This article is about the train. See also Advanced Vehicle Engineers, a short-lived aviation company, and the Avestan language (ISO 639 alpha-3, ave). "AVE" may also refer to African American Vernacular English. Ave is a Roman salutation
AVE trainset for Madrid-Sevilla
AVE trainset for Madrid-Sevilla

AVE, an acronym for Alta Velocidad Española (literally, "Spanish High Speed" but ave also meaning "bird" in Spanish) is a high speed train that can achieve speeds of up to 300 km/h on dedicated track. Three corporations are involved in making trains to run on the national high-speed network: the Spanish firm Talgo, the German firm Siemens (makers of the German ICE high speed trains.) and a French firm Alstom (makers of the TGV). However, Alstom lost the so-called project of the century in 2001 to supply the train sets on the Madrid-Barcelona line, despite having over twenty years experience of running high-speed trains (the TGV or Train Grand Vitesse) in France and providing the train sets on the Madrid-Seville line. Siemens' experience was limited to the slower ICE. Talgo, while producing a highly innovative fast train in the 1970s, was a newcomer to the field. Furthermore, the Alstom report shows that the world's three high speed networks, France's TGV, Germany's ICE and Japan's Shinkansen, have all developed by incremental, seven-year 30kph steps. Talgo aims to make the technical leap from 220 to 350kph in one step. There are also concerns regarding Siemen's ICE, particularly after the Eschede train disaster (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eschede_train_disaster) - critics arguing that Germany would have been much better off buying France's tried and tested TGV (which also happens to have an excellent safety record).

Articles in the Spanish Press suggested the likely reason for this apparently ideosyncratic choice - Talgo was Spanish, while the Siemens contract was the consolation prize for Germany after the Spanish government decided to accept the General Dynamics bid for the Santa Bárbara armament firm instead of the bid put in by Krauss Maffei-Wegmann. Krauss Maffei had a big contract under which Santa Bárbara would build Leopard 2 tanks under license for the Spanish army and this provided a further bargaining chip in the ensuing horse-trading between the Aznar and Schroeder governments. It should also be noted that Siemens had made substantial bribes during the 1990s in an attempt to secure the AVE contract. An article in El País newspaper (article in Spanish) (http://www.uc3m.es/uc3m/dpto/PU/dppu02/20000427ave.htm) revealed that Siemens had paid some DM 4.3 m to a company owned by Luis Oliveró, the same man sentenced to ten years for illegal financing of the PSOE (Spanish socialist party).

Unlike the rest of the Spanish broad-gauge network, the AVE uses European standard gauge, permitting direct connections outside Spain in the future. All AVE trains are currently operated by RENFE, the Spanish state railway company, although it is possible that private companies may be allowed to run lines in the future.

Contents

History

The AVE commenced service between Madrid and Seville on 21 April 1992, a distance of 471 km, with a travel time of 2.5 hours.

It has been suggested that the PSOE government choose the French Alstom bid over the Siemens and Talgo bids for political rather than technical reasons, rewarding the French government for its assistance in capturing ETA activists who took "sanctuary" across the border in Southern France. Seville's hosting of the 1992 World's Fair prompted its choice for the inaugural AVE line, but there were also accusations that the Spanish head of government Felipe González favoured his home city.

The service guarantees arrival within 5 minutes of the advertised time, and offers a full refund if the train is delayed further, although only 0.16% of trains have been so. In this regard, the punctuality of the AVE is exceptional compared to other RENFE services, and indeed even compared to the French TGV system.

The high speed of the train link combined with high property prices in Madrid has encouraged many Madrid commuters to settle in Ciudad Real, the first stop on the Madrid-Seville line.

Future Development

Construction of a high-speed line connecting Madrid and Barcelona is underway, with the initial section from Madrid to Lleida, via Zaragoza, opening on 11 October 2003. Completion of the line is planned for 2007, with the line reaching Tarragona in 2006. When completed, the Madrid-Barcelona line will be the world's fastest in commercial operation, with trains reaching a top speed of 350 km/h and covering the 600 km between the two cities in just 2.5 hours. It is expected that the AVE will substantially replace air traffic on this popular route, similar to the effect seen with the London-Paris/London-Brussels Eurostar.

Construction of a segment to Valladolid and extension of the Seville line to Malaga is also underway, and there are firm plans for extending the system to Valencia and Alicante. Connection to the French TGV network is also planned, at either La Jonquera in Catalunya or Irun in the Basque Country. Further expansions to Galicia, the Basque Country (including the so-called Basque Y connecting the capitals of the three Basque provinces) and Portugal will likely eventually be built.

The Spanish government has an ambitious plan to have 7,000 km of high-speed rail operational by 2010, with all provincial capitals at most only 4 hours from Madrid, and 6.5 hours from Barcelona.

The construction of the high speed Madrid-Barcelona line encountered unforseen geological problems, with the result that trains are not currently running at their full speed between Madrid and Lleida. Geologists have been particularly critical of the stretches built on weak clays in Aragon and large pits have appeared near the track. Spanish civil engineering is often decidedly shoddy and the AVE project has been plagued by major failures regarding signalling equipment, train speeds, and tunnel design. At the time of writing (2005), it appears increasingly unlikely that the line's designed top speed of 350 km/h will ever be attained. More recently, plans to build a shallow AVE tunnel under the fragile foundations of Barcelona's 19th century city centre instead of by a low-impact coastal route have incensed some 50,000 residents, threatening Major Joan Clos' political future as a result.

Lines

Currently, four lines make up the AVE system:

  • AVE Larga Distancia (long distance) Madrid-Sevilla (Madrid, Ciudad Real, Puertollano, Córdoba, Sevilla)
  • AVE Larga Distancia Madrid-Zaragoza-Lleida (Madrid, Guadalajara, Calatayud, Zaragoza, Lleida)
  • AVE Lanzadera (shuttle) Madrid-Puertollano (Madrid, Ciudad Real, Puertollano)
  • Talgo 200 Madrid-Málaga (Madrid, Ciudad Real, Puertollano, Córdoba, Málaga)

The central hub of the system is Madrid's Puerta de Atocha station.

External links

es:Alta Velocidad Española fr:Alta Velocidad Española nl:Alta Velocidad Española ja:AVE ro:Alta Velocidad Española sv:AVE

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