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4. Infrastructure

The Government intends to continue with its program of heavy investment in this area in the future.

In this connection, the Transport and Housing Plan (PITVI) was approved which, based on an analysis of the current situation and a rigorous assessment of Spanish needs, establishes the priorities and action plans up to 2024.

The Plan’s objectives notably include: (i) enhancing the efficiency and competitiveness of the global transport system, optimizing the existing capacity; (ii) contributing to balanced economic development; (iii) promoting sustainable mobility, combining its economic and social effects with respect for the environment; (iv) reinforcing territorial cohesion and accessibility to all State territories through the transport system; and (v) improving the functional integration of the transport system as a whole by taking an intermodal approach.

The motorway and dual carriageway network, of nearly 17,228 kilometers, has undergone constant renovation with a view to enhancing its efficiency. Today it is the leading European motorway and dual carriageway network. The improvement of the motorway and dual carriageway network and an increase in high-capacity roads, with investment of €36,439 million, is among the objectives of the plan.

As far as railway transport is concerned (where Spain has a network with 16,000 kilometers), high-speed networks have become a priority.

Madrid currently has high-speed train connections to 31 Spanish cities, following the inauguration in 2015 of new high-speed routes to Zamora, Palencia and León. The last section of the Atlantic Corridor was completed in 2015, connecting Galicia from North to South. The Barcelona-Paris line has enabled a high-speed rail connection between the Spanish and French capitals, with a connection to the French border via Vitoria and Irún (the Basque Country) to be added shortly.

The Spanish high-speed network is constantly being expanded. The new Madrid-Granada section was inaugurated in June 2019 and is expected to be followed by the inauguration of the sections to Burgos and Murcia in 2022. In fact, in recent years, Spain has become a global high-speed rail pioneer, having multiplied the kilometers of high-speed lines in service more than six-fold, from just over 550 kilometers to more than 3,400 kilometers.

Since its inception, approximately €51,775 million has been invested in the high-speed rail network, making a commitment to ensuring that 9 out of every 10 citizens live less than 30 kilometers away from a high-speed rail station. Spain has thus become the leading country in Europe and the second worldwide, after China, in terms of the number of kilometers of high-speed lines in operation, outperforming countries such as France and Japan. Looking toward 2021, the General State Budget contemplates an increase in high-speed expenditure over preceding years, financed in part with European funding.

Also noteworthy is the important network of relations with managers of railroad infrastructure in other countries, established as a result of signing cooperation protocols. In the context of these agreements representatives from a range of countries, such as the US and Brazil, have visited Spain to learn about its high-speed model. By way of example, in 2020, administrative licenses and concessions were granted to Spanish companies for their participation in the construction of railway infrastructure and equipment in countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States (Dallas and Houston) and Mexico, among others; and in the construction of the high-speed line connecting Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which came into operation on October 11, 2018.

Regarding the deregulation of rail passenger transport services, approval was recently given to Royal Decree-law 23/2018 of December 21, 2018, which transposes the Directive developing the single European railway area, allowing access to the railway infrastructures of all Member States and reinforcing the independence and impartiality of the administrators of such infrastructures. As a consequence of the deregulation, it was announced in 2020 that the high-speed “low cost” [railway infrastructure] known as "Avlo" would begin to operate, although its inauguration was postponed until 2021, due to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Finally, the freight sector liberalization since 2005, has led to the creation of private enterprises that transport goods by railroad. The Spanish Government plans to approve a series of measures to promote this type of transport and to eliminate administrative and technical barriers, thus definitively making the railroad a competitive means of transport.

Air transport links the main Spanish cities via Spain’s 46 airports, which also connect Spain to the world’s leading cities. Spain is a major hub for routes linking the Americas and Africa to Europe. The most significant investments in the pipeline are aimed at the two principal international airports in Madrid and Barcelona. AENA plans to invest €1,571 million up to 2026, the main objective being to increase capacity up to 80 million passengers. In 2020, as a consequence of the COVID-19 world health crisis, Spanish airports like those in the rest of the world, have seen a temporary drop in passenger numbers with respect to the positive evolution recorded in preceding years. In this context of global paralysis of the industry, Spain has been chosen by many airlines as one of the top places for parking their fleet of aircraft, given the excellence of existing infrastructures.

The access to the high-speed rail network takes only 25 minutes from the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas International Airport; this means that travelers can easily combine both types of transport, placing Spain at the forefront of passenger transport.

The 2021 Air Navigation Operating Plan, approved in 2020, projects an investment of over 127 million euros, aimed at adapting to technological transformation and boosting the recovery of the aeronautical industry. In addition, the new 2025 Strategic Flight plan, which is to replace the 2020 Flight Plan, is currently being prepared.

Furthermore, with over 46 international ports on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, Spain boasts excellent maritime transport links, becoming a port and harbor powerhouse, only behind the Asian giants, the US, Germany and the Netherlands. The reinforcement of short-distance maritime transport, both domestic and European, and the development of seaside motorways are some other key initiatives. Moreover, the Seaside Motorway between Spain and France is now operation, linking Vigo with the French port of Nantes-Saint Nazaire. At the same time, work is underway to recover the connection between Gijón and Nantes-Saint Nazaire, which would resume what was one of the first Spanish motorways of the sea and which operated until its closure in 2014. Furthermore, Spain plans to promote this type of link in the Mediterranean, through agreements with Italy and other countries, with a view to increasing the number of lines already on offer and operating with good results between the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Valencia and the Italian ports of Porto Torres, Civitavecchia, Livorno, Savona, Cagliari and Salerno.

This will allow a more sustainable alternative in some of the main flows within the EU. In addition, with a view to improving the competitiveness of ports, in 2010 the Ports Law was amended to reduce restrictions on inter- and intra-port competition and boost the competitiveness of Spanish ports in the global economy. Along the same lines, the Port Accessibility Investment Plan was approved to enhance land access to the port system, with an investment of more than €1,418 million. The 2021 budget for the port system in Spain was presented at the end of 2020, with an investment of over 1 billion euros for port terminals, enhancements in land connectivity, environmental sustainability and digitalization.

As part of its plans for internationalization, the State Port Authority is promoting alliances with the major Chinese operators, with the Barcelona Europe South Terminal (BEST) at the port of Barcelona being operated by Chinese group Hutchinson Port Holdings (HPH), the leading port terminal operator in the world. Three major Spanish ports (Bahía de Algeciras, Valencia and Barcelona) are listed among top 100 ports worldwide in terms of container traffic10, thereby confirming Spain’s strategic position in the global maritime transport industry.

Spain is well equipped in terms of technological and industrial infrastructure, having seen a boom in recent years in technological parks in the leading industrial areas, as well as around universities and R&D centers. There are currently 61 technological parks11 housing 8,130 companies, mainly engaged in the telecommunications and IT industries, in which a large number of workers are employed in R&D activities.

Spain also boasts a solid telecommunications network, with an extensive conventional fiber optic cable network covering the country almost in its entirety, on top of one of the world’s largest undersea cable networks and satellite link-ups spanning the five continents. Particularly noteworthy is the significant deregulation set in place some years ago in the majority of industries, including the telecommunications industry, meeting the deadlines set for such purpose by the EU with ease. Among other advantages, this deregulation has meant a more competitive range of products on offer as reflected in costs, essential for economic development.

Also notable is Government backing for integral management of water resources, based on environmental management and recovery, more efficient use of water and planned management of risks such as droughts and flooding. As part of these initiatives, under Royal Decree 1/2016, the Government approved the review of the Water Plans for the Western Cantabrian, Guadalquivir, Ceuta, Melilla, Segura and Júcar river basin districts, and the Spanish sections of the Eastern Cantabrian, Miño-Sil, Duero, Tajo, Guadiana and Ebro river basin districts.

Lastly, the Spanish infrastructures industry is expected to be especially favored by the “Next Generation” aid package agreed by the European Union to support the countries most affected by the pandemic.

10Lloyd’s List – Maritime Intelligence. One Hundred Container Ports 2020.

11Members of the Association of Science and Technology Parks in Spain.