To anyone accustomed to travelling in Spain in the past, the transformation of the country's transport system must seem almost miraculous. Massive government investment and EC aid have resulted in a vastly improved roads network and in significant improvements to the railways. The AVE high-speed train which cut journey time from Madrid to Seville from six to two-and-a-half hours has turned out to be a commercial success and not merely a prestige project undertaken for Expo-92. All major Spanish cities are connected by air, with a frequent shuttle between Madrid and Barcelona. Coach services between Madrid and most provincial capitals are excellent, with modern, fast, airconditioned coaches. The greatest improvement has undoubtedly been to the road network. A figure of 160,000 km of main roads appears modest in terms of Spain's area, but is closer to the European average in terms of the country's population. Most motorways have been privately built and are therefore toll roads (except near large cities where they act as ring roads). But the state and the governments of the autonomous communities have developed a network of fast dual carriageways (autovías) which have cut driving times between major cities virtually by half. It is now possible to drive the length of Spain, from the Franco-Spanish frontier to Gibraltar (1,250 km) in a day, with only the last half-dozen kilometres on a single carriageway road. Alongside these new dual carriageways, numerous ring roads and bypasses have been built, such as the M-40 or Madrid orbital, the SE-30 or Seville by-pass, and the various urban belts (cinturones) in Barcelona. Motorways and dual carriageways total about 8,000 km; a further 2,000 are under construction or projected. The radial nature of the fast-track network, with six major routes from Madrid to the periphery, has been complemented by other fast routes: from east to west in Andalusia, and from Santander to Barcelona; from north to south along the Mediterranean coast and in Galicia. Responsibility for much of the non-radial network is now in the hands of the regional governments.
   Although investment in the railways has on the whole not been so impressive, timekeeping and journey times have improved immeasurably, and a new high-speed train is planned, linking Madrid to Barcelona, and thence to Paris and the European network. Much of the rail network, however, remains single-track, limiting the possibilities of expansion. Its current limitations are shown by the fact that the railways carry just 4 percent of inland freight and 6 percent of passengers. By contrast, the Madrid underground makes a much more effective contribution to urban transport; without it the streets of the capital would be immobilized by commuter traffic. Considering its long coastline, Spain has relatively few major ports. The four largest by movement of merchandise are Algeciras (12m tons per annum), Barcelona (8.5m), Valencia (8m) and Bilbao (6m). Algeciras is the biggest container port in the Mediterranean and the second largest in Europe. In terms of passenger traffic, Algeciras again leads with close on four million passengers a year, because of the intense traffic between Spain and Morocco. The other major passenger ports are Ceuta, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Palma de Mallorca.
   In air transport there has been very considerable growth of the domestic market since 1980. Nearly 100 million passengers pass through Spanish airports every year, over 40 percent of whom are on domestic flights. Traffic is particularly intense between Madrid and Barcelona and also between these two cities and the Balearics and Canaries. In international flights about two-thirds of passengers are on charter flights, reflecting the fact that Spain is a major destination for the package holiday industry (see also tourism). Some 75 percent of all international flights are to or from other European airports, although Spain is also Europe's principal air link with Latin America.
   Further reading
   - Chislett, W. (1998) Spain 1998. The Central Hispano Handbook, Madrid (see p. 32 for a brief section on infrastructure).
   - Ministerio de la Presidencia (1995) España 1995 (see the chapter on "Infraestructuras y Medio Ambiente" (Infrastructure and Environment)).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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