Co-ordination of the development of three European countries' high-speed railway networks was agreed last Wednesday, when at a meeting of EU transport ministers in northern Spain, Portugal, France and Spain all agreed to work together in order to maximise the cost efficiencies, build times and benefits to passengers.
All three countries also called on their respective governments for the creation of a joint cross-border passenger company, which would comprise national railway operators and be modelled on Thalys, which is the high-speed train company owned jointly by Dutch, French, Belgian and German railways.
At the meeting in Zaragoza, details of planned and 'advance planned' high speed lines were detailed. Portugal, for example, has advance plans to introduce high speed travel between Lisbon and Madrid in Spain, as well as from the country's Atlantic coast to the central Spanish city of Salamanca. Spain has proposed a high speed line between Madrid and Irun on the Spain/France border, before then linking up with the French network.
An existing high speed line in Spain between Madrid and Zargoza is to be extended to Figueres - again near the border with France, where it too will then connect with France's high-speed network.
LEYTR Comment: Well, what a difference this makes to the proposed High Speed 2 line here in the UK. While it makes excellent sense for countries that board each other to co-ordinate their efforts, rarely does this happen throughout the rest of the world. Thalys is an excellent example of what can be achieved when four countries commit to high speed rail - and this long before the most recent boom and bust cycle.
Pooling resources and efforts also provides greater efficiencies when paying for the lines. A high-speed line between Madrid and northern Spain alone would provide significantly fewer journey possibilities than one that linked up with France's TGV network. The more destinations, the greater the patronage and ultimately the revenue received. It could eventually be possible to travel between Madrid and London wholly by high speed rail. With journey times by air between these two capital cities being under 2 hours, high speed rail could start to redress the balance.
Finally, and in a potential contrast to the plans for HS2 here in the UK, reassurances were given at the meeting that measures taken to implement massive spending cuts in all three countries would not affect their commitment to the development of high speed rail. While the Con-Dem Coalition has yet to give firm details on HS2's timescale, many believe that while a long-term commitment will be assured, not a penny on construction will be paid in the current five-year parliament. Meanwhile, Portugal, Spain and France will be progressing apace with their networks.