ay 2013. The lack of connections with Europe via high-speed rail continues to be a secondary concern in the offices of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, which is more worried about adding lanes to roads that see less than 1,000 vehicles per day and laying kilometers of rails for a second high-speed line to Galicia.
November 1975. The team of Renfe engineers and technicians review the details of the preliminary project for a high-speed train line connecting Madrid-Barcelona-Portbou that the regime had commissioned in 1972. Three years of intense work summed up in eighty volumes and six folders that sketched out a 300 km/h international-gauge high-speed train, which would prioritize the opening of the Catalan market to Europe. At that time, the only high-speed train with a projected speed of 300 km/h was the one connecting Paris and Lyon, which was then under construction. In Japan, a pioneer in high-speed rail, trains travelled at 210 km/h. Italy was also studying a 300 km/h train to connect Milan and Bologna, and Germany for the Cologne line that would pass through Frankfurt. Apart from technological leadership, that Spanish high-speed rail line would have brought immediate social and economic progress, as it prioritized the opening up of Catalonia to Europe, the great driving force of a country still mired in a depression.
This story is true. All of the documentation for this high-speed train can be found in the Railway Library in Madrid. The project also pointed out the need to study a second high-speed rail line, “Zaragoza-Vascongadas”, that would connect with Bordeaux and Paris, “thus connecting with Europe and structuring the most densely populated areas and the two regions with the most economic activity in the country.” Indeed, the report expressed the urgent nature of opening the Basque and Catalan economies to Europe, given the stagnation of the Spanish economy after the long period of isolation during the dictatorship.
Like it or not, in terms of rail infrastructure, the Franco regime showed a pro-Europe and technologically innovative mindset, if only in theory, well beyond that implemented by later democratic governments, which suppressed the Madrid-Barcelona-Portbou high-speed line, removing it from the offices in 1978 and publicly burying it after 1982, when the socialist government of Felipe González took a radical shift in infrastructure policy. But we already know how the story ends.