"You won't find a single economist who agrees with the investment in high-speed railways," says [Barcelona University's Daniel] Albalate, adding: "It's possible that the engineering sector has been helped, although French and German companies have benefited most. We now have some knowledge and experience about managing high-speed rail routes, which is not surprising given that we have more kilometers than any other country, apart from China. But we have not generated any wealth through this enormous investment."
Spain's commitment to high-speed railways has impacted negatively on conventional rail routes, as well as the transport of goods by rail: less than four percent of all goods in Spain are carried by rail, compared to Germany's 22 percent, or the EU average of 18 percent. High-speed rails cannot be used by other trains, and are designed exclusively for carrying passengers, an approach that other countries avoided. Routes that can carry high-speed and conventional trains have a top speed of up to 250 km/h. "Opting purely for high speed has meant cutting routes in the regions. We have created a transport network for business passengers," says Albalate. In short, billions of euros have been spent to save 15 minutes on a journey time.This is a country mired in a deep recession, causing the Spanish government to cut spending on virtually everything...except its high speed trains. For what One travel writer has described ... as "a journey to nowhere, albeit quickly."