In Spain, the Public Works Ministry is in the midst of a MASSIVE program to extend the high speed rail system [dubbed AVE for "alta velocidad española] throughout the country and into neighboring France and Portugal.
The objective is for all communities throughout mainland Spain to reach an AVE station within a 50 km radius. The program was initiated many years ago and its cost is in the tens of billions of Euro.
Service on the Madrid-Barcelona line currently reaches Lleida on the Catalan border and will extend to Barcelona sometime in 2007, and onto the French border sometime thereafter. Once the Madrid-Barcelona line reaches full service, it is expected to significantly reduce traffic on the popular "air shuttle" between both cities. This service, BTW, is a huge cash-cow for IB
and will be gravely missed.
Other lines currently in construction include an Atlantic line to Galicia and Portugal in the Northwest, a Levant line to Valencia and an extension of the Andalucian line from Córdoba south to Algeciras [already in service].
Last year, Spain's state-owned rail company, RENFE, was separated from the state entity holding all of the nation's rail infrastructure, the Ministry of PW
. The market for rail services is being opened to private competion in the near future. Several national construction firms are interested in offering rail services to the public.
Here in the US, on the other hand, our state-owned passenger rail company, AMTRAK, is permanently bankrupt, under capitalized and woefully incapable of financing sorely-needed capital investments to maintain current service levels.
The intercity rail market here in the US is not competitive with alternative modes of transport, specifically commericial air services.