Madrid Metro's latest six-carriages trains offer room for 1260 passengers with 180 seats

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Madrid Metro: A thoroughly
modern urban rail system

By Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent

2 August 2011: Madrid has Europe’s fastest growing metro and urban rail systems. The size of the metro has doubled during the past fifteen years. Strong political leadership at city and regional level ensured a series of investment plans were funded and delivered. By mid-2011 the system had grown to 294 km of route on 12 lines with 296 stations and now is the sixth-longest metro railway in the world.

| Structure and evolution | Political leadership | High standards | Stations | Government and the regions | Investment 2000 – 2007 | Current & future investment | Conclusion |

Additionally, there are 386 km of urban/suburban Cercanias rail services network with 100 stations operating as 9 lines. Public transport is used for 1.5 billion journeys a year in Greater Madrid. The population of the region with Madrid at its centre has also been growing rapidly. In 2011 it stood at 6.5 million compared to five million only 20 years ago.

Structure and evolution
Metro de Madrid SA is a public company and is part of the regional consortium, Consorcio Regional des Transportes. It is owned and overseen by the Comunidad de Madrid (Autonomous Community of Madrid) and the Ayuntamiento de Madrid (Madrid City Council).

These institutions have owned the system since the public enterprise was established in 1990. The first line of metro in Madrid was opened in 1919. It was just 3.8 km long. By the outbreak of civil war in 1936 there were three lines in operation.

An expansion programme launched in the 1970s went badly wrong and some of it was cancelled in the 1980s. But after the re-organisation of ownership and responsibility, investment and growth began again in the 1990s. During that decade lines 1, 4 and 7 were extended and line 11 was constructed.

In the early 2000s over 50 km of new tunnel were built, 41 km of it the Metro Sur, one of the largest single-phase engineering and construction schemes in Europe in the modern era. A new line 8, all in tunnel, was built to connect Nuevos Ministerios with Barajas Airport terminals 1, 2 and 3 and later extended to the new terminal 4.

Political leadership
Madrid mayor Alberto Luiz-Gallardon opened a 19-million euro investment in Opera metro station and the Plaza de Isabel 11 in the heart of the city in March 2011. Despite on-going protests about austerity measures, Snr Luiz-Garradon was re-elected for a third consecutive term in May 2011. 

Autonomous Community President Esperanza Aguirre, who was re-elected with an increased majority in May 2011, also for a third consecutive term, opened the extension of line 11 to the new urbanisation La Fortuna in October 2010. The population of La Fortuna, around 15,000, also has a new park to enjoy above the new station. Journey time to the city centre is 15 minutes.

The President said “despite the economic crisis, the Community of Madrid is not going to come to a halt and continues to improve the transport of our region.”

In her first term the Comunidad funded significant extensions of the metro into the suburbs adding another 90 km including more light metro (metro ligure) lines to serve growing communities to the west of the city.

Both Esperanza Aguirre and Alberto Luiz-Gallardon are members of Partido Popular, Spain’s centre-right party.

High standards for the whole of the network
The re-build of the Plaza de Isabel and the Opera station beneath it included the replacement of eight escalators and addition of new ones and installation of three lifts. All of the renovated and new stations meet full accessibility requirements. 60 million euro was spent on escalator replacement in the older stations between 2008 and 2011.

The investment programme has dramatically expanded the circulation areas at the older stations. The vestibule at Opera has increased from 114 sq metres to 821 sq metres. At Arguelles metro station, which re-opened after re-building in 2010, vestibule space increased seven fold to 744 sq metres. New stations on the extensions to the older lines have large public circulatory areas. The aim of the renovation programme is to make the older parts of the network as close to the quality of the new parts as is practical.

By the summer of 2011 the Madrid Metro had the largest numbers of lifts and escalators of any urban subway or metro system in the world with 508 lifts and 1656 escalators. They have a stringent access for all policy so in addition to the lifts and escalators new stations have extensive provision of speaking facilities at machines, podotactile paving, ischiatic supports on platforms, braille indicators and information throughout the sites, non-reflective lighting and other innovations.

Stations as venues and visitor attractions
Some of the busier interchanges in the new sections of Cercanias and Metro route are vast below the ground. These palaces below the streets have the capacity to accommodate a future doubling in the number of people using the systems. The largest and most dazzling spaces are used for a range of public and corporate events.

In May 2011, for example, Nuevos Ministerios station was transformed for three days as the venue of a fitness festival for women complete with large spaces temporarily fitted with a range of gym equipment. The three-day festival attracted a capacity 2,600 participants.

In June 2011, Nuevos Ministerios and the metro station at the Chamartin interchange were venues in the Madrid Magic 2011 event. One magician, at Nuevos Ministerios, even used cryogenics and entertained onlookers by freezing himself.

Permanent features have become a major part of the city fabric. The very large photomurals of the city on the vast walls at Nuevos Ministerios give the visitor the impression they are actually above the ground. At Opera there is now a 200 sq metres archaeological museum, the largest underground cultural facility in Madrid.

The Cercanias station at Sol, Madrid’s most used plaza, which opened in June 2009, includes some of the most dramatic vertical elevations under the ground anywhere in the world. The lowest level of the structure, where the tracks and platforms of the C3 and C4 lines running through the new deep tunnel under the centre of the city linking Chamartin and Atocha are located, is an astonishing nine storeys in normal level heights below ground although the station actually has six levels.

There are 7,500 sq metres of publicly accessible circulation space at Sol. The C3 and C4 platforms level cavern measures 207 metres x 20 metres x 15 metres. The station cost 150 million euro. In its first year, it was used for 50,000 daily journeys and this is expected to rise to 70,000 in the short-term. It provides interchange with the older metro lines 1, 2, and 3.

The facility includes mezzanine style partial levels, which have geological display panels and an exhibition of remains of the Bien Sucesco church, which formerly stood on the site. They also form part of the structural support and eliminate the need for excessively long escalators.

National government and the region
Total investment in the last two decades is over 12 billion euro. The Spanish Government Ministry of Public Works and Infrastructure has been criticised repeatedly by the region and the city for not extending the Cercanias network as fast as they have grown the metro network. Before the authorisation of the new central tunnel in 2003, most extensions to the Cercanias network had used existing infrastructure

The tunnel between Atocha and Chamartin was the major investment by the Ministry during the first decade and it was two years behind schedule when it opened in 2008. However, it has permitted a dramatic increase in the number and frequency of services, which can call at the key destinations in the city, Sol and Nuevos Ministerios.

The new sections of route between Chamartin and Barajas terminal four are supposed to be followed by more investments, which were agreed by the state and the region and published as a 2009-2015 suburban rail investment plan with a 5 billion euros price tag. Much of this may now be in jeopardy because of Spain’s debt crisis.

The 2000-2007 investment programmes
The largest investment phases were between 2000-2007. The most expensive single scheme has been the Metro Sur built between 2000 and 2003 at a cost of 1.55 billion euro. The 41 km circular route is entirely in tunnel and connects many southern urbanisations with each other and with other Metro and Cercanias lateral routes. Significant interchange with inter-urban bus services is available at several of the 28 stations.

Although Metro Sur was criticised for cost at the time, the populations served are substantial and have grown by more than 70,000 people in the decade since it was built. Trains are well used.

Metro Sur opened in April 2003. In 2007, a short distance to the south of it, Tranvia Parla was completed. Entirely on the surface, Tranvia Parla is an 8.4 kms circular system with 16 stops, which serves most of the developing new town of Parla. It connects with Cercanias C4 at Parla Centro in the centre of the town. There will be a second connection with C4 in the east of Parla after that area is fully developed. With a 2011 population of 120,000 Parla is likely to grow to nearly 200,000 eventually. In 2010 Tranvia Parla carried over 5 million passengers.

Metro de Madrid has won international recognition for its combination of metro and tram technologies in its three Metro Ligure routes. ML1, serving northern suburbs, opened in 2003 and was expanded in 2007. ML2 and ML3, serving western suburbs, opened in 2007. Both begin at Colonia Jardin, a developing area and interchange which was originally built as an extension of Metro line 10 in 2002. There are also 12 inter-urban bus services calling at Colonia Jardin which is below the M502, one of the region’s key roads.

In 2010 the Madrid Metro Ligure was awarded the accolade of best Light Metro initiative by the International Union of Public Transport.

Current & future investment
Even in the harsh economic conditions in Spain following the 2008 recession some investments continue to be delivered as all tiers of government have prioritised infrastructure, especially transport, for many years.

Construction of an extension of the suburban rail network to allow direct services between the major hub at Chamartin and the Richard Rogers designed Terminal 4 at Madrid’s Barajas Airport is nearing completion in 2011. Extensions of several of the Cercanias lines from Chamartin to T4 will be introduced in 2012.

An extension of metro line 9 from Mirasierra will open in 2013 and create a new interchange with Cercanias lines 7 and 8. It is a 1.5 km tunnel, which is being excavated using the traditional Madrid method. The fortuitous sub-soil conditions for tunnelling under Madrid are an opportunity which the decisions to invest heavily in transport have taken fully.

Use of the extensions introduced in 2010 and 2011 has continued the success story of the new lines earlier in the new century. Six new stations, which opened on the extensions to lines 2, 9 and 11 between October 2010 and March 2011 had attracted over 600,000 users by May 2011. La Fortuna station on line 11, for example, added six per cent to the total of users on the line after six months in operation.

The delivery of so much transport infrastructure within the city region has enabled Madrid to mount a third successive bid to host the summer Olympics, this time for 2020, with all major political parties in support. Mayor Luiz-Gallardon was able to confirm that no additional monies would be spent on infrastructure investments related to the Olympics until after the result of the bidding process in 2013 as he was confident that the existing system would meet initial scrutiny.

Greater Madrid is well prepared for an uncertain future notably in increases in the cost of oil and a sluggish economy with high indebtedness. It will be able to counter this with its travel to work flexibility made possible by the large reach and high capacity of its public transport networks.

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