It seems as if all of Spain is under construction.
Work cranes can be seen in most any town or city, indicating another block of flats is going up. Brand new highways seem to be opening everywhere, making maps out of date after just a year. Rail lines are also being built across the country as older routes are upgraded and a national high-speed train network takes shape.
After more than a decade of massive infrastructure funding from the European Union, Spain shows little sign of halting its building frenzy — even as EU money starts to flow instead to newer, poorer member countries to the east.
Not only has the capital Madrid been extending subway lines at a stunning pace, but other cities of various sizes are also digging holes underground to bring faster rail service to dense urban areas — most of which were built long before the car. Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world, so tourists like me benefit from constantly improving travel options.
Upon arriving in Madrid, there were indications a new subway extension had just entered service. Passing through only three weeks later, signs were posted showing another two lines had been extended. Additional new subway, commuter and light rail service is set to open soon.
In the popular southern city of Seville, much of the older core has been pedestrianized and only minibuses and taxis reach where tourists and shoppers want to go. A short tram line will soon provide access to the historic centre, but this city of less than 1.5 million (including suburbs) is also planning an ambitious “Metro” network.
An attempt decades earlier to build a subway failed and locals seem skeptical about whether the first line will open any time soon, but there are major work sites around town. Seville is already large — and dense — enough to have a basic commuter rail system and has boasted a high-speed rail link with Madrid since 1992.
The national train service, called RENFE, is constantly adding more sections of rapid rail and, by 2020, the plan is to have the capitals of every Spanish province linked by “AVE” trains that travel more than 200 kilometers per hour. Many of these same cities appear to be planning light rail projects to go along with their higher transportation status.
Even the southern city of Granada, beloved by tourists for its centuries old architecture including the Moorish palace, the Alhambra, wants its own Metro line — likely multi-car light rail trains running beneath the old city core.