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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Madrid-Valencia: 90 Minutes by Rail

The new high speed rail line between Madrid and Valencia was inaugurated this past weekend amidst heavy fanfare, pomp and circumstance, hype, and a lot of well-deserved pride on the part of the Spanish. Spain now has more high speed rail kilometers than any country in Europe. These rail lines, called AVE for Alta Velocidad (ave is also the Spanish word for bird) now link Madrid with Sevilla, Barcelona, and now Valencia.  A round-trip trip now takes less time than a one-way rail voyage took previously which means it’s feasible to go to Madrid and come back the same day. I told some friends in Madrid to expect me to stop by soon for a cup of coffee.

There are a lot of complaints from Spaniards that this rail line is expensive and out of reach for the average rail commuter. Many argue that the money spent on this service would have been better spent upgrading existing tracks. I can go both ways on this issue. I’m all about democracy but these high-speed lines are just so fucking cool. I’ve taken the one between Madrid and Sevilla and I must say that it is truly a marvel. I can’t wait to try out this new line. I have been meaning to visit Madrid again and this gives me a great excuse. While I am there I was thinking that I may return via the AVE line to Barcelona and then return to Valencia from Catalunya. That way I can cross the Madrid-Barcelona line off of my to-do list. After that I need to do the Chunnel trip from London to Paris.

As Spain and other European countries race to extend their high-speed rail networks the United States has retreated into an anti-tax mentality and half of the populace spits on the ground at the mere mention of the word “government.” The myth of the rugged individual maybe appropriate for cowboy movies but it’s not way to build a society.  Back when Jimmy Carter lowered the speed limits in America to a maximum of 55 mph the country should have realized that the automobile was not the answer to the ever looming problem of transportation. 

The AVE reaches top speeds of over 300kph and it does it safely. They project that the added traffic on the new AVE will prevent 27 traffic fatalities as people abandon their cars in favor of the more sophisticated rail service now available. The trip takes three and a half hours by car; over twice as long as the train. Flying takes 55 minutes and the plane leaves you 20 minutes from the city center at both ends.  What method would you choose for your trip between Valencia and the capital?

1 comment:

  1. Definitely the AVE!!! Very jealous! Waiting for Cadiz - Madrid 3 hours in a few years!


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