BcnRail, the competitive railway
· 1848: The first Spanish railway connects Barcelona and Mataró.
· 2011: a Spanish consortium is awarded the contract to construct the High Speed line between Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
These are key dates for the Spanish railway sector that highlight the industry’s long history. In the last ten years in particular, it has undergone a huge transformation and modernization process that has enabled it to cross frontiers.
“We have succeeded in revitalizing a sector that was not competitive thanks to technological innovation, we have successfully applied to high speed rail lines, automated metro and trams,” says Javier Vizcaino, president of BcnRail, the rail industry’s show at Fira de Barcelona which was held for the third time in the Gran Via area from 29 November to 2 December.
Vizcaíno, who is very knowledgeable about the rail industry due to his extensive experience and his position as president of Railgrup, the cluster which includes the leading companies in the sector in Spain, says that internationalization is trhe key. “The Saudi Arabia project,” he says, “shows that the sector is strong in internationally, but not just in the high speed area. That is also the case with tramways and concessions, such as the one in Dublin, and automatic metros. Now we have to find out how to sell everything we have learned over the years.”
In order to find out about the situation in emerging markets and business opportunities for Spanish companies, BcnRail organized various workshops with representatives of the railway sector in Brazil, Algeria, Russia, India and Poland, among other countries. Gabriel Alarcón, director of Sener Ingeniería y Sistemasin Catalonia, believes that “the future is very interesting in emerging countries, especially in Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East.”
However, the Spanish railway sector is looking optimismically and hopefully towards a destination closer to home: crossing the Pyrenees and linking up with the Trans-European Transport Network Executive Agency (TEN-T), thereby putting an end to years of isolation brought about by the use of the Iberian gauge, which is different from the one used in other European countries.
On 19 October, the European Commission presented its proposal for a Unified Network with ten priority corridors, two of which are in Spain: the Mediterranean Corridor (La Jonquera-Barcelona-Valencia-Almeria-Granada-Algeciras) and the Atlantic Corridor (Lisbon-Madrid-Basque Country-Strasbourg).
The inclusion of the Mediterranean Corridor in the European Unified Transport Network is the response to a long-standing demand from civil society and the governments of the autonomous regions. The work of the European multisectoral association FERRMED, established in Brussels in 2004, in order to act as a driving force behind the Freight Rail Great Axis Scandinavia-Rhine-Rhone-Western Mediterranean has been vital in this respect.
If the forecasts are correct, the European Commission’s decision means that the main network will be fully operational in 2030 and an investment of 31,700 million euros will be required. 19,242 million euros of this amount will be allocated to the Mediterranean Corridor, according to the Ministry of Public Works.
The news was warmly welcomed by the industry. The President of Ferrocarriles de la Generalitat de Catalunya, Enric Ticó, says that “this is great news, because it makes us the focal point of North-South and East-West international trade.” Meanwhile, Juan Carlos Anton, marketing director of Dimetronic, a company specializing in signage, says that “it is a very good opportunity to show our high level of skills.”