The first standard UIC gauge cross-border corridor between Spain and France was inaugurated by the Minister of Public Works and Transport on 21 December 2010. This service with an investment of approximately EUR 337m links the port area of Barcelona with Perpignan. This new tunnel had already opened to revenue service a few days previously.
Four weekly trains will connect Barcelona with Lyon and Milan. This will enable international freight traffic to run through the new Perthus tunnel that links Figueres with Perpignan.
The State Secretary of Transport Isaías Táboas pointed out that opening this standard UIC gauge (1435 mm) link is a landmark in the history of railways and starts a new phase in the connection with Europe, accelerating border crossing and reducing transport time by six hours, with a trainload of 300 more tonnes.
Renfe has rescheduled train services departing from Barcelona with destinations further than the Pyrenees, such as the Barcelona–Lyon service that links Barcelona port with Lyon, a key logistics hub in south-western Europe and the Hupac operator service that links Barcelona with Milan.
More trainload, less time
Renfe has opened this service with four weekly trains that link Barcelona with France and Italy, departing from the Morrot and Can Tunis train terminals that connect with the port of Barcelona (TCB-Tercat). The new link with France will also provide new options for Renfe’s Inter-modal Multi-customer Network connection for container transport through Morrot Terminal. Among other ongoing projects, Renfe is considering a new service that will link Barcelona with Toulouse and Bordeaux, a similar service to the Barcelona–Lyon link that will also run through the UIC gauge tunnel.
The corridor has a total length of 168 km; 92 km are Iberian broad gauge lines on which a third rail has been installed for UIC gauge (1435 mm), while the remaining 76 kilometres correspond to sections of the future Barcelona–Figueres high speed connection, on the Madrid–Barcelona–French border High Speed Line.
This new infrastructure will enable train length to be increased from 450 to 750 metres. Consequently, Renfe offers clients an increase in freight load of up to 20 tonnes on its current freight trains on the abovementioned services departing and arriving at Barcelona, in addition to speeding up border crossing and avoiding freight transfer at the border. These two factors save transport time and will enable cargo companies to load on the same day of departure.
More modern traffic systems
Besides implementing the third rail, the system will also have six sidings that will allow 750 m-long trains to be stabled, the upgrading of the overhead power line that supplies 3 kV of continuous power on Iberian broad gauge sections and 25 kV alternating current on high speed sections, together with the deployment of modern safety, telecommunication and signalling systems, such as ERTMS and GSM-R. Traffic management systems will be controlled by the High Speed Monitoring and Control Centre (CRC) and the Centralised Traffic Control (CTC) in Barcelona.
Among the main benefits for freight transport offered by this new connection, we can highlight freight transport on UIC standard gauge (1435 mm) on both sides of the border. Consequently, Intermodal Transport Unit (UTI) transfer to UIC gauge platforms or changing train axles at frontier points, as is the case now, will be unnecessary, and this means saving travelling time. On the other hand, an increase in load capacity will be offered as the length of trains will be harmonised to European standards.
Similarly, on a short term basis, the services will have interoperable safety and communication installations at European level, such as ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System).
In this respect, and in order to adapt the new infrastructure, train engines have been upgraded to run on different catenary powers (3,000 V Iberian gauge, 25,000 V high speed and 1,500 V France). Moreover, freight car axles have been changed to UIC gauge.
To this end, four 252 series train engines have been adapted. Two other 319 series diesel train engines have been transformed in order to handle disruptions.
The four weekly trains that will connect Barcelona with Lyon and Milan will transport a total load of 544,000 tonnes in 2011; 208,000 correspond to the Barcelona–Lyon service and 336,000 to the service linking Barcelona with Italy. The use of railways instead of other means of transport for these services will result in an energy saving of 33,680 tonnes of CO2 and 8,560 tonnes of petrol. More specifically, this first year of service of Barcelona–Lyon freight traffic will mean saving 13,830 tonnes of CO2 and 19,850 of petrol; and regarding traffic between Barcelona and Milan, saving up to 5,260 tonnes of petrol and 19,850 tonnes of CO2.