(See: Low-speed AVE Tue, February 12, 2013 Blog #29)

The AVE, the High Speed Train
Project, will be arriving in Granada – late, provisionally, low-cost, and
low-speed. This was the message Mayor José Torres Hurtado brought from Mariano
Rajoy’s Government to the good people of Granada some four weeks ago. The news
did not fulfil their expectations, the Mayor was told in no uncertain terms.

Provisional plans foresee the AVE
entering a refurbished Avenida de Andaluces station towards the end of 2015, overground, on a
single track between Granada and Loja, following the same 18 km trajectory that
has been in use since 1866. Two years ago an agreement was reached
between central government, the regional
government of Andalucía and the city council for the AVE to enter the city
underground, passing discretely out-of-sight beneath the La Chana neighbourhood in the west of the city.

“No hay dinero.” There’s no
money at the moment for that more elaborate and costly plan, favoured by the
opposition parties, neighbourhood associations, and other interest groups. Instead,
a relatively modest sum of 20 million euros will be spent on doing up the
station and upgrading the existing line from Loja. This latest project will see
the travelling time between Granada and Madrid cut by 1¾ hours to 2¾ hours. For
the 425km stretch, that is a respectable average speed of 155kph. But with a
capability of speeds up to 340kph, it is not so impressive. And it compares unfavourably with the AVE performance
between Seville and Madrid, the 536km being covered in 2½ hours, an average
speed of 215kph. Such a speed would cut the travelling time between Granada and
the Spanish capital to barely 2 hours.

The La Chana neighbourhood, through which the railway line cuts, has
the most reasons to be dissatisfied with this provisional solution. The plan
they favoured was for the line to go underground when it reached the city
limits but their complaints and protests have been brushed aside – with the
argument that there wasn’t any money, but one day in the future, definitely
maybe …

Torres Hurtado and the Rajoy
central government, when pressed, offer no timescale to indicate when this
provisional plan will be converted into something more permanent and definitive.
“One day in the future.” Are we talking
about 20 years, or 40, or 60 …?

“Sceptical and disillusioned” is how the
president of the La Chana
Neighbourhood Association describes his reaction to the news of the overground
AVE reaching Granada by the end of 2015.

Acknowledgements:
VÍCTOR OLIVENCIA 12.02.2014; V. GOMARIZ · V. OLIVENCIA 11.02.2014 GRANADA HOY

1: Avenida de Andaluces station, Granada. 2: Railway track through La Chana. 3: Districts of Granada. 4: “El Ave del desierto” – official visit.

Meanwhile, in another corner of
the globe, where there IS money, a “desert AVE” is being built between Medina and
Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
This undertaking represents the largest international contract ever won by
Spanish industry (6.736 million euros). Sealed in 2011, it includes the design
and construction of the track, the provision of 35 trains, and the operation
and maintenance of the whole system for a period of 12 years, extendable to 17.

More significantly, it is to hope that this
project will pave the way for other new
projects being offered to Spanish companies, such as the metros to be built in Riyadh, in Jeddah, and in Mecca. (Ay, the metro in Granada!
Doesn’t it make you want to weep! – METRO DE GRANADA Sun, May 19, 2013,
blog #37)

Then there is the prospect of two
lucrative contracts for cross-country (or cross-desert) railway lines, one of
2,400km from north to south, linking Iraq and Yemen, and the other east-west,
from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea.

On her visit to a “desert AVE”
construction site, Minister of Public Works Ana Pastor was beside herself with delight
at the brilliant achievements of Spanish engineering in Saudi Arabia and the
promise the future holds. Construction of the line was very advanced, no
technical difficulties had emerged, and the Saudi Government was expressing its
satisfaction at the way things were going. “Spain is today an undisputed world
leader in rail infrastructure,” Ms Pastor could boast.

Ay Granada! Torres Hurtado! The
Neighbourhood Association of La Chana! Look upon yon Mighty Works, and weep!

Acknowledgement:
MIGUEL JIMÉNEZ 15 FEB 2014 EL PAIS