25 years of AVE, this is the technology used by the Spanish train

25 years of AVE, this is the technology used by this Spanish train

On April 14, 1992, the Spanish High Speed ​​Line (AVE) between Madrid and Seville was inaugurated. On April 21, its commercial exploitation began , coinciding with the opening of the Universal Exhibition of Seville. It was a milestone for Spanish railway technology and the award for many years of development.

High-speed AVE train

This line inaugurated 25 years ago what is the most extensive fast train network in Europe . And second in the world, only behind China. We have almost 3,000 kilometers of track capable of supporting trains that reach more than 300 km / h. In these networks, averages above 200 km / h are achieved. Thus, they unite Madrid and Barcelona, ​​or Madrid and Seville, in just 2 and a half hours.


Spain has an important railway tradition , from that first Barcelona-Mataró line in 1848. Even before that, the first Spanish train was built in Cuba, which was another province, in 1937. To know the antecedents of the AVE you have to go to the 20th century , to one of the historical national inventions: the TALGO.

Talgo from 1942

Since 1942 the engineer Alejandro Goicoechea carried out tests with experimental trains. Their goal: to get railways capable of running faster , safer and more efficient. Its development line, with articulated trains first and pendulous later, is what has led to the current AVE.


The TALGO started from the base of using the existing roads. With radical changes in the way the wagons were suspended on the wheeled "carts", they could reach higher speeds . For example, wagons tip when cornering, and their center of gravity is much lower. The TALGO II reached 120 km / h in 1950. The TALGO 4 of the late 1970s reached 180 km / h. From there, the TALGOs would take advantage of the AVE routes since 1992 to exceed 200, 250 and 300 km / h.

AVE train wheel and suspension

Some techniques are shared in the development of the TALGO and the current AVEs. The wagons are attached almost permanently, because the bogies (sets of wheels) are shared. They are at the ends of each car and serve every two. That is why they are not as modular trains as others, but the wagons are more closely linked. An advantage for the passage is that you can walk through the entire train: it is open.

AVE: new routes

In addition to specific trains, the key to the AVE is on its way . The layout is done taking into account the speeds that will be reached and maintained. The train always maintains a high speed, above 200 km / h and in many sections reaching 300 km / h maintained. This implies new infrastructures, with more resistant bases, apart from the route.

Spanish technology was first developed in France, where its first TGV (Train í Grande Vitesse) has been operating since 1981. Although Japan was the pioneer: its Shinkansen reached 210 km / h in 1964. The tracks must have moderate curves , but they can have large slopes. This is thanks to the inertia of the running train, an advantage of this means of transport, and the power of its traction.

Driver's cabin of an AVE

Safety is essential. The AVE roads are closed and fenced in their entirety to prevent animals or people from crossing. And there are sensors throughout the route that would stop a train if an object fell on the track. The only AVE accident was the very serious one in Angrois (Galicia) in 2013. It took place precisely on a section of ordinary track, when the too-fast train arrived from the expressways.

Electric with catenary

On the other hand, given the necessary power, the AVEs receive power from outside . That is why they are all electric and with a special overhead catenary (the cable that provides current), up to 25,000 Volts. The tension of the catenary is critical: it vibrates faster than the train. The French record for an AVE is 574.8 km / h, and the catenary was measured to have a wave moving at 620 km / h.

AVE trains and complicated overhead catenaries

The power of an AVE is around 8,000 kW , that is, almost 11,000 hp. It is normally distributed between the two tractor units, of 4,000 kW each. The trolleys have independent suspension at each wheel, and the wagons themselves have pendulum air suspension.