Spain has applied to the European Investment Bank (EIB) for a one billion Euros loan to further develop the rail freight Atlantic Corridor linking the main Basque port cities of Bilbao and Pasajes with Madrid and Paris.
The corridor is essential not only for facilitating high-speed trains between Spain and France, but also creating new rail freight opportunities for the Basque region’s manufacturing industry, one of Spain’s most important exporters. It’s projected that direct rail freight services from Bilbao, on the Bay of Biscay, and Pasajes, would see around 800,000 lorry movements a year switched to rail.
The infrastructure project has a total budget of six million Euros, and the latest application from Spanish central Government follows a previous 1.4 billion Euros loan. Work began on the corridor in 2006 and is expected to last until 2025, when new rail stations in San Sebastian, Bilbao and Vitoria are due to open.
Freight links between Spain and France at the border point at Hendaye will also be strengthened, with interconnections to the Spanish regions of Navarre and Aragon. These are home to important automotive hubs, with factories owned by Volkswagen and PSA Peugeot Citroën (for General Motors).
The Spanish Government’s strong commitment to this ambitious project is a consequence of its agreement with the National Basque Party, whose five MPS have provided political stability to Spain’s governing Popular Party, in exchange for tax advantages and the acceleration of this rail infrastructure.
The Atlantic Corridor, formerly Rail Freight Corridor No. 4, includes existing and planned lines between Sines / Setúbal / Lisbon / Aveiro / Leixões – Algeciras / Madrid / Bilbao / Zaragoza – Bordeaux / La Rochelle / Nantes / Paris / Le Havre / Strasbourg – Mannheim, crossing the international borders of Vilar Formoso/Fuentes de Oñoro, Elvas/Badajoz, Irun/Hendaye and Forbach/Saarbrücken.