SIX stations specially constructed for Spain’s High Speed Train (AVE) network received a daily average of less than 700 travellers – considerably fewer than originally envisaged.
Tardiente (Huesca), Yebes (Guadalajara), Puente Genil-Herrera (Cordoba), Antequera-SantaAna (Malaga) and Huesca-Calatayud (Zaragoza) were in that order, the least-used of the AVE stations last year.
Tardiente, 21 kilometres from Huesca and with a population of a little over 1,000, is the smallest town with an AVE station and the least-used of the network’s 20 stations, used each day by an average of 54 people.
Residents failed to understand why the small town has an AVE stop. “To tell the truth, no-one comes here and the people who live here don’t use it much. Once in a while they go to Madrid. You’re there in two hours,” said bar-owner Gregorio.
Andalucia’s Puente Genil-Herrera AVE station sees more movement with five Madrid-Malaga and five Malaga-Madrid AVEs passing through each day, together with seven Sevilla-Cordoba-Malaga Avant trains and six Avants in the opposite direction.
But this works out at 328 users for 23 trains each day for a station that cost €7.2 million to build when it was opened in 2006.
Only China has more kilometres of high speed track than Spain, but the number of travellers using the AVE is low compared to developed countries with smaller networks.
France’s high speed trains had 113 million passengers in 2008 and Japan nearly 300 million but Spain had under 20 million, said Germa Bel, an Economics professor at the University of Barcelona.
Former president Jose Maria Aznar pledged in 2000 that all provincial capitals, regardless of size, would have an AVE connection to Madrid and the present government had unquestioningly continued the same policy.
But it would be impossible to make all the installations pay their way, Bel warned.