- Spanish region spent $276 million on trains before they realized they were too big to fit in the tunnels.
- Two officials in the transport industry were fired as a consequence.
- The president of Cantabria, a region of northern Spain, called the error an “unspeakable botch.”
Spanish transport services are going back to the drawing board after spending millions of euros on new commuter trains that are too large to fit in tunnels of the rail network.
Two senior officials in the Spanish transport industry were fired earlier this week after local news outlet El Comercio reported last month that the government had spent €258 million (about $276 million) on unusable trains.
The 31 trains were meant to replace older ones in the north of Spain — on a route that connected the Cantabria and Asturias regions.
President of Cantabria Miguel Angel Revilla called the circumstance an “unspeakable botch,” according to local newspaper El Diario Montañés.
Renfe — the country’s national train operator — ordered the trains in 2020, granting the manufacturing contract to the transport manufacturing company CAF.
Renfe said it provided correct measurements from Adif, a train track company, Euronews reported, but the manufacturers said they warned the national train line that the sizing was likely, not correct.
The miscommunications likely arose because the tunnels in the region were built in the 19th century, according to Euronews, so they do not accommodate recent standard train sizes.
Luckily, the trains were still in the design phase, the country’s transport minister said, and had not yet been built when the error came to light. They were meant to be available in 2024. However, a complete redesign means the new service will not be available until 2026.
Isabel Rodriguez, a government spokesman, called the incident “unacceptable” and said there would be an internal investigation into the mix-up.
This is not the first time there have been sizable train troubles in Europe: in 2014, a French rail company spent billions of euros on trains that were “too wide” for the tracks.