Madrid Puerta de Atocha Station / Spain

The Spanish railway system



Organisation of Spanish railways

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Structure of Spanish railways .UIC 2013

The Spanish railway system is run at present by the following organisations:

  • Ministerio Fomento (Ministry of Transport);
  • the regulator;
  • ADIF (the only IM in Spain);
  • railway undertakings, RENFE being the sole passenger transporter.

All these are public agencies.

**The Spanish rail network

The distinctive features of the Spanish rail network are:

1. The existence of different rail gauges: four gauge types on the 15 233 km network, including 8 791 km of electrified track (2004).

  • Broad gauge (1 668 mm): 11 829 km (6 950 km electrified at 3kV CC)
  • Standard gauge (1 435 mm): 1 450 km (all electrified at 25 kV DC)
  • Metre gauge (1 000 mm): 1 926 km (815 km electrified) and 914 mm gauge on just 28 km (all electrified)

Since the 1980s, Spain has nevertheless applied a general policy of converting its network to standard gauge in order to facilitate international rail links with neighbouring countries, in particular France, including through the use of dual gauge track.

2. The expansion of the high speed network in Spain, thanks to the European programme, with corresponding alterations to the stations with the arrival of high speed.

Governance and financing of Spanish stations


ADIF owns and manages a total of 1648 stations and other logistics equipment in its network. Some suburban stations, 482 in number, are run by RENFE Operadora which does not have a specific stations department.
Of the stations operated by ADIF, the largest, national ones have commercial and retail premises on site and are run by a specific department of ADIF, the “Dirección de Estaciones de Viajeros” (Passenger Stations Management), which is responsible for 99 stations used by 170 million passengers a year. These stations contain:

  • 91 000m² of retail space
  • 35 820m² of restaurant space
  • 14 605 car parking places


  • Financing of construction and renovation is by the Spanish government, Adif and Renfe.
  • Financing the operation of stations depends on the category, of which there are three in Spain:
    1. Mainline stations
    2. Suburban stations
    3. Other stations

Besides the fact that this classification defines the type of station governance, it also provides the basis for the funding policy of each station: ADIF itself operates some of the retail space in the larger stations (around 50 shops per station) under the trade name Vialia, which is 40% owned by ADIF and 60% by Riofiosa, a commercial property developer; and in stations with 5 to 10 shops under the trade name “tiendras de la estaciÓn” (station shops), 100% owned by ADIF. This constitutes a significant diversification of the business and an important source of funding, in addition to access fees and rental income.

Case study, Madrid Atocha station

Geographical context

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Madrid is a densely populated city with 3 233 527 inhabitants.
Economic capital of Spain.
Urban context: 2 km from the city centre.
At the heart of a dense urban fabric.

Distance between main airport/station

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Distance from Madrid Atocha station to Madrid airport is 25 km – 30 minutes by suburban train.

Station’s position on the railway network

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Madrid Antocha station’s geographical location in southern Europe makes it relatively distant from the main European stations, but it is the hub of the Spanish network.

Location within Madrid transport system

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5 of the 8 regional lines.
2 metro lines.
3 tram lines.

Date of construction: 1857 Number of metro lines: 2
Date of last renovation: 2010 Number of regional lines: 7
Total station surface area: 104 195m² Number of bus routes: 9
Number of travellers / year: 46 million Number of regional stations with direct services: 99
Number of visitors / day: 94 000 Number of public parking spaces: 617
Retail space: 7 400 m² Cost of parking near the station: €27.95 / day
Number of retail outlets: 47 Parking surface area: -
Restaurant space in station: - m² Cost of cycle hire: -
Infrastructure manager: ADIF Presence of checkpoints in the station: yes
Operator: Renfe . Transfer time in station: 12 minutes
Number of tracks in station: 15, including 11 dedicated to HS traffic

Number of trains / day: 700 trains (209 high speed / day)

Mode of access:

26.9% taxi, 13.6% metro, 12% suburban trains, 8.9% pedestrian / cycles

**History of the station

The original building was constructed by MZA railways for the Madrid Alicante line, and was opened in 1851 with the name ‘Estacion de Mediodía’ (Southern Station). It was Madrid’s first station.
A fire in 1856 destroyed a large proportion of the station, which was then rebuilt with a metal structure in 1892.
The station has undergone several renovations, the most recent work being carried out for the arrival of high speed in 1992, when the architect Raphael Moneo had a 4 000-m² park constructed in the middle of the station with 7 000 trees and plants, and a wide variety of tropical birds.

Renovation: 2010

Duration: 2004-2010


  • Construction of the new arrivals terminal
  • Reorganisation of the flow of arrivals and departures in the station
    Financing: government, railway undertakings


  • City of Madrid
  • Transport Ministry
  • Railway undertakings

Conclusion / expected outcome

  • Reorganisation of flows through the station
  • Preventing the risk of the historical mainline terminal becoming overly congested
  • Construction of a dedicated arrivals terminal

**Description of the station renovation project

Madrid Puerto De Atocha station has been altered many times since it was opened, in order to adapt to the growing need to increase capacity.
One of these first renovation projects consisted of increasing the number of tracks to cope with higher traffic levels, leading to the building of tracks outside the centre of the station, which then became vacant. This is the area now occupied by the nature park at the heart of the historic building.
Later, in 1990, major renovation work was carried out, to separate traffic flows in the station, reduce transit time and manage flows in the station. This was achieved by the construction of a new terminal for urban and regional traffic, a significant reorganisation that prepared the way for the arrival of high speed in Atocha station in 1992, when very large-scale construction work was carried out to adapt the station to the demands of this new traffic. The question of restructuring the layout of Madrid Atocha station has often been linked to issues of flow management, since the station’s geographical location has always placed it at the heart of the Spanish network, giving it the primary vocation of being a national and international hub.

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This need to expand the station was again behind the latest renovation project, dating from 2010, to build a new arrivals terminal.

**Challenges of the renovation project

With the increasing risk of seeing the station congested, there was a need to extend the station on the basis of the available real estate around the historic station building.

**The project

As there was sufficient land available around the station, the project consisted of extending it on a free area parallel to the mainline tracks.

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A new arrivals terminal is planned, as well as a new car park, both connected to the original two terminals by a whole network of ramps, escalators and lifts.

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By comparing flows in Atocha station in 2004 and in 2010, it can be seen that there has been a complete reorganisation of the station, with separate, dedicated terminals, and this has facilitated access to the platforms.
This project has also included updating the station, with an ultra-modern terminal and innovative facilities.
The focus has been placed on improving access for people with disabilities, by increasing vertical and horizontal mechanical links.

**Key project data

  • Total surface area: 2708 m²
  • New retail area: 408 m²
  • Number of new retail outlets: 8

The new retail space is relatively small compared to the potential space in the new terminal and to the 105 000m² total surface area of the station, which has total retail space of 7500 m². However, this renovation project was centred on transport issues, to find solutions to the problems of flow management experienced in Madrid Atocha station.

  • 210 m of arcades between the pre-existing terminals and the new one
  • 6 new lifts
  • 12 mechanical ramps

Madrid Atocha station has focused on improving accessibility, and fluidity of movement in the open spaces of the station, in its bid to attract increasing numbers of passengers.