Spanish railway boss resigns due to over-sized trains

The top boss of Spanish railways Renfe, Isaías Táboas, has resigned. Following an order for trains that turned out to be too big to track through specific tunnels, he presented his resignation yesterday.

The order has been controversial in Spain for a fortnight after the mistake was made public. At issue was a 248 million euros contract for 31 regional trains for the country’s mountainous north, awarded to Spanish constructor CAF in June 2020. However, the vehicles ordered were too big for the oldest railway tunnels on their intended routes.

Trains were never built

As early as March 2021, before the trains went into production, the Basque Country-based CAF, who are also building the Brussels metro series M7 just like trams for De Lijn, had pointed out that the dimensions provided in the tenders were incorrect. Renfe stresses that as a result, trains with incorrect dimensions were never made.

“There was never any risk that trains with the wrong dimensions would be built because the manufacturer had an obligation, defined in the tender documents”, to carry out checks, Renfe assured the press agency AFP.

However, the blunder did cause the order to be delayed. The new trains will not run in 2024, as previously announced in the Cantabria and Asturias suburban network, but rather during 2026. There are also fears that the costs will be higher than anticipated, something, however, contradicted by Renfe.

Compensation demanded

On 6 January, Spain’s transport ministry already decided to sack Renfe’s head of materials management and a senior official at rail network operator Adif.

On Monday, Renfe boss Isaías Táboas kept the honor to himself and stepped down. State Transport Minister and former Adif chairman Isabel Pardo de Vera did the same. Táboas was at the head of the railway company since June 2018.

Reacting to the resignations, the president of the region of Cantabria, Miguel Angel Revilla, of the regionalist party PRC, however, demanded “compensation” for his territory, which was directly affected by this erroneous order for trains. According to the newspaper El País, the services in Asturias and Cantabria will continue to be free of charge until the trains are delivered.

War of claims

This exception will surely open a war of claims from other communities to demand the same treatment, and some even point to an appeal to the Constitutional Court if the measure is not equalized. In total, five networks of several northern Spanish regions (Basque Country, Galicia, Castilla y León, Asturias, and Cantabria) are affected, but the last two most, since they have the oldest road network, even dating back to the 19th century.

The by the media hyped Renfe-fiasco comes amid the campaign for the regional elections in May. This has precipitated a chain of forced resignations without waiting for the open investigation or audit to be resolved.


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