The Minister of Transport announces imminent dismissals in Renfe and Adif

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The Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez / EFE

The Cercanías trains designed for Asturias and Cantabria do not enter the tunnels due to an error in calculating the dimensions

The Minister of Transport, Mobility and the Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez, has announced this Saturday “imminent cessations” in both Renfe and Adif to “assume responsibility” for the error in the dimensions of the Cercanías trains in various autonomous communities, especially in Cantabria and Asturias, which means that the convoys do not fit in the tunnels. The minister has been blunt: “My hand is not going to tremble and in the next few hours there will be layoffs, both in Renfe and in Adif and we will give the explanations at that time.” Sánchez has commissioned an internal audit at both Renfe and Adif to “know and know in detail what happened” and “see where and who made the mistake” which has meant that a total of 31 machines are not used for the purpose for which they were commissioned. The railway convoys were destined for Asturias and Cantabria (a total of 21 should have been put into operation this year in this community) and it was in Asturias where it was learned this week that the construction of the trains was badly bid and the wagons would not fit due to the tunnels (some very old) that dot the railway network of both autonomous communities. When the news broke, Revilla described the management as “botch” and demanded “that heads roll”, a demand to which the minister has now responded with equal emphaticity.

The minister has apologized for the mistake in the design of the trains and has advanced that she is going to set up a work team that will travel to Cantabria and Asturias to supervise the project: “My commitment is that the new designs will be ready this summer , so that the construction of the wagons begins as soon as possible.

Cantabria had been waiting for these new trains for years, since its fleet is very old. According to the Renfe works council, they are even repaired with parts that are obsolete when they break down, hence the seriousness of the delay that this ruling by Adif will entail, the entity that has acknowledged that it was wrong in the tender.

The person in charge of the Transport and Mobility portfolio was accompanied this Saturday in Castro Urdiales by the regional vice president Pablo Zuloaga, the government delegate Ainoa Quiñones, and the mayoress of the town Susana Herrán.

Origin of the problem

The origin of the problem lies in the gauges published in the Adif network statement, which Renfe used to describe the technical characteristics of the new trains in a contract that it published in 2019 to acquire 31 metric gauge trains, intended to renew the commuter and medium-distance network fleet, mainly in the north of the country.

In June 2020, Renfe awarded this contract to CAF, a manufacturer of trains and buses based in the Basque Country, for 258 million euros. When preparing the project, CAF realized that there was an error in the gauges and that the tracks would not support the trains ordered, and they transferred this to their client, Renfe.

The contract awarded in 2020 set the contract execution period at 220 months, around 18 years and four months. As it included 15-year maintenance of some units, the remaining three years and four months would be the term for the manufacture of the trains, although they are normally delivered progressively. Therefore, the first trains should have been ready by October 2024 at the latest.

Although neither party has confirmed the length of time it will take to solve this problem, it is estimated that the construction of the trains that have not yet been manufactured will take around three years, and some procedures still need to be arranged so that the solution agreed can be carried out.

In addition to the Cercanías trains in Cantabria and Asturias, the Basque Country, Galicia, Castilla y León and Murcia are also affected.

For his part, the President of Cantabria, Miguel Ángel Revilla, has assured this Saturday that the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, has apologized for the failure in the dimensions of the Cercanías trains that will delay the arrival of the fleet compromised for the region, but the president has asked that this “botch” have “some person responsible” because “it is not presentable that something is put out to tender in 2019 and we find out now that the width of the trains did not match that of the tunnels ».

To questions from the press, Revilla explained that he had been calling the minister since Thursday “but she did not call” and he was “quite angry.” «He called me, apologized, told me that, indeed, someone had to pay the consequences of this mistake, and that he promised to expedite the start-up of the manufacture of the trains as soon as possible and that today he would give an explanation in Castro », where he will go this Saturday for an institutional and campaign visit.

In this sense, Revilla hopes that the minister will be “clear and forceful and tell us how it is possible that in a country like Spain, a pioneer in the world in the construction of infrastructures, an error of this caliber appears, where we still do not know if The person in charge is Adif, Renfe…, but the minister is the head of those organizations and she will have to clarify it.

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