posted on 5th May 2023 09:15
On 3 May 2023, during a meeting with Adrián Barbón, the President of the Principality of Asturias, the Secretary General for Infrastructures, Xavier Flores, announced that the 50 km high speed line from La Robla to Pola de Lena, through the 25 km base tunnel under the Cordillera Cantábrica, would be opened to commercial traffic 'during November 2023'.
The latest delays in completing the line can be attributed to problems with the supply of various pieces of equipment, and related price increases of raw materials. These have resulted in delays to the prolonged testing period, which in itself is of exceptional complexity given the fact that one of the twin single track 25 km base tunnels is fitted with dual gauge rail, a characteristic not found in any other rail tunnel of similar length in Europe, yet has existed since 2016 in the Seikan tunnel between Honshu and Hokkaido.
This latest announcement of the probable inauguration date, as vague as it still is, comes as the 18th such since work on the new railway started in 2005. To date, the construction cost has topped 4 billion EUR, a far cry from the original estimate of 1.5 billion EUR. The autonomous government of Asturias has asked Renfe to double the capacity of trains using the new line, and to provide a direct daily Avilés to Madrid service (one train pair daily). Further negotiations in this respect can only take place after the autonomous government elections, scheduled for 28 May.
A report prepared by the autonomous government of Asturias reckons that the annul ridership on the re-routed railway between León and Gijón could rise to around 600 000, compared with the 241 700 recorded in 2019. It has also been voiced in political circles that the new line will generate a substantial increase in the number of tourists who visit Asturias, although there is little to be said about the scenery viewed through a train window on a line which, for the most part is in tunnel, when an important part of tourism should be the journey, rather than solely the destination.