Spain: Transport Secretary Quits After Train Design Error

    Spain: Transport Secretary Quits After Train Design Error
    Last updated Feb 21, 2023
    Image credit: Europa Press News [via BBC News]


    • Spanish secretary of state for transport, Isabel Pardo de Vera, and the head of the state rail operator Renfe, Isaías Táboas, both resigned Monday following backlash over an order of 31 commuter trains too wide for some tunnels in the north of the country.
    • The resignations came as Spain's transport minister Raquel Sánchez was set to meet with the presidents of the regions of Asturias and Cantabria to explain how the errors were committed.
    • It emerged weeks ago that the manufacturer CAF was given inaccurate dimensions when Renfe ordered the trains for nearly $275M in 2020, prompting the ministry to fire a Renfe manager and the head of track technology for infrastructure operator Adif.
    • While the Spanish government claims the mistake was spotted in time to avoid a financial loss, both regions now face at least a two-year delay in the delivery of new trains, which must be redesigned to fit in the tunnels.
    • The poorly connected northern autonomous regions of Asturias and Cantabria rely on a 19th-century rail network that crosses a mountainous landscape and has non-standard tunnels.
    • The government announced that travel on the networks affected by the delay would be free until new trains come into service in 2026.


    Narrative B

    The narrow-gauge routes in northern Spain have existed for decades, making it unbelievable that such an absurd mistake has been made. This, however, is not an isolated scandal but rather a symptom of the Spanish government's lack of control and transparency, as well as its disregard for Spaniards' money.

    Narrative A

    While the conservative opposition camp has been trying to use this bona fide error to criticize the Sánchez government ahead of this year's elections, officials have launched an internal audit into it and are working hard to find a solution. This mistake shouldn't have happened, but damages were mitigated as it was spotted early enough to prevent the use of public resources.

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