The planners were saved in extremis, but not the president of the Spanish railway company nor the undersecretary for Transport and Mobility, for whom a non-negligible distraction cost them their jobs: due to a miscalculation, in fact, the 31 brand new and comfortable trains which should have started service next year on the short and medium-distance local network of Cantabria and Asturias, turned out to be too wide to fit into the narrow tunnels of those mountains.
Fortunately someone checked the dimensions in time of the trains designed for Renfe (from the old denomination National Network of Spanish Railways), and compared them with those of the nineteenth-century galleries in the two northern regions, for which they had been destined. But the mistake will result in a delay of at least two years in the delivery of the long-awaited convoys. And he has unleashed an uproar involving the government and the opposition.
The agreement was concluded in June 2020 with the construction company, the Spanish Caf, which had beaten the competition from the French Alstom and the German Siemens, securing an order worth 258 million euros. One small formality remained to be completed before the kick-off for the works: an assessment of the measurements of the tunnels listed in the tender notice.
Almost a year later, in March 2021, the Caf, which is based in the Basque Country, realized that the data provided did not coincide with the real ones: the ultra-modern and streamlined trains commissioned by Renfe they would never have passed through the centuries-old tunnels of the regions of Santander and Oviedo.
The company pulled the emergency brake and warned the authorities, even before starting the assembly lines for the construction of the convoys.
What happened in the competent offices in the following months is not known. The news of the sensational oversight only leaked this year, towards the end of January; and the first admissions arrived at the beginning of February, followed by attempts at reassurance by the Spanish railway company at theAfpthe French news agency: «There has never been a risk that the trains from the wrong measures actually went into productionbecause the manufacturer was contractually obliged to proceed first with the appropriate checks».
The 258 million allocated would therefore not have been lost, but it is not certain that now they will be enough to complete the operation, considering the dizzying increase in the cost of raw materials in recent years. Furthermore the postponement of the delivery of trains to 2026 he has sent the administrators of the two regions into a rage, who want to be compensated: “We are waiting for clarifications and solutions on the table” demands the president of Asturias, Adrián Barbón Rodríguez (PSOE). “I expect heads to fall – hoped his counterpart from Cantabria, Miguel Ángel Revilla (PRC, Regionalist Party of Cantabria) -. I’ve never seen such sloppy work in forty years.’
His hopes were realized last Monday, when the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez Jiménez, accepted the resignation presented by his right-hand man, Isabel Pardo de Vera, who at the material time presided over Adif, the Administration of Railway Infrastructures; andto the president of Renfe, Isaías Táboas Suárez, at the top of the company for five years.
From the right, the opposition took it directly on President Pedro Sanchez, socialist: “Your government – the number two of the Partido Popular, Cuca Gamarra, ironized in parliament – orders trains that do not pass in the tunnels”.