Spain Spent $276 Million On Trains, Then Realized They Didn’t Fit In The Tunnels

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Alyssa Blakemore Contributor
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Two senior officials in Spain’s transport industry were sacked last week after the government spent approximately $276 million on new commuter trains too large for the network’s tunnels.

The 31 trains, still in the design phase, were slated for completion in 2024 and intended to replace the ageing fleet in Spain’s autonomous northern regions of Asturias and Cantabria, Euronews reported.

The blunder stemmed from miscommunications among several parties involved in the trains’ manufacture, the outlet reported. National rail operator Renfe awarded the contract to manufacture the trains to the company CAF in 2020, Business Insider reported. Measurements provided by Renfe to CAF were based on specifications from rail infrastructure manufacturer Adif, but the manufacturers warned the specifications might not be accurate, according to Euronews.

“Police Aux Frontières” (PAF) officers patrol near a railway tunnel at Cerbere cross-border train station, southwestern France, on November 13, 2020. (Photo by RAYMOND ROIG/AFP via Getty Images)

“Heads must roll,” said Cantabrian President Miguel Ángel Revilla, for this “unspeakable botch,” Euronews reported citing El Diario Montañés. A rolling stock manager at Renfe and Adif’s head of inspection and track technology have so far been dismissed.

While Spain’s transport minister Raquel Sanchez maintains she only recently learned of the issue, Secretary General for Infrastructure Xavier Flores admitted he found out months ago, Euronews reported. (RELATED: Officials Warn Of Possible ‘Catastrophic’ Blast Near Ohio Train Derailment)

The northern regions’ 19th-century rail network crosses mountains and boasts tunnels of varying sizes that are inconsistent with standard modern dimensions, Euronews noted. New trains will instead be constructed based on dimensions from a train currently operating on the rail’s network, according to the outlet. The error means the completion of the 31 trains will be delayed until 2026.