This article discusses the past, present, and future of railways across the Pyrenees, a formidable mountain barrier between France and Spain; it also considers attempts to resolve the differences between track gauges in France and Spain. The first railway line in Spain was built between Barcelona and Mataro in 1848, four years after a strange Spanish decision to use a gauge about 24cm more than that of most other European railways. It was only on 9 December 1988 that the European Council of Ministers decided to build a high-speed line to the European standard gauge along the route Sevile-Madrid-Barcelona-France's Mediterranean border. The first lines across the frontier at the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts were opened in 1864 and 1878, respectively. The first of these lines had to cross over the 600m high Cantabrian mountains, west of the Pyrenees. In 1885, a Franco-Spanish agreement was signed, involving twelve projects for railway lines across the Pyrenees, including tunnels of total length 30km. Two of the projects were eventually implemented, in 1928 and 1929. Road and motorway tunnels under the Pyrenees were built from 1976 onwards. Recently projects for high-speed rail lines across the Atlantic and Mediterranean frontiers, and a new cross-Pyrenees rail project, began to be studied.


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  • Accession Number: 00769929
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: Transport Research Laboratory
  • Files: ITRD
  • Created Date: Oct 7 1999 12:00AM