Spain's transport boss quits after approving train carts'too wide for tunnels'

Two top Spanish transport officials have resigned after signing-off on dozens of new train carriages which ended up being too wide to fit through tunnels.

Three years ago, state rail operator Renfe, announced plans to modernise the carriages on narrow-gauge commuter trains and medium-distance trains in the towns of Asturias and Cantabria.

But last month a design flaw was unearthed which meant any trains being built under the €258m (£227.5m) scheme would be too large to pass through tunnels in various parts of the region.

Spain’s rail network was built in the 19th Century, and has tunnels under the mountainous landscape that do not match standard modern tunnel dimensions. 

The discovery was made public earlier this month and prompted a wave of public backlash, despite the Spanish government claiming the mistake was spotted early enough to avoid financial loss. 

Two senior officials – one at Renfe and the other at the state rail infrastructure company, Adif – were fired in connection with the incident, which president of Asturias Adrián Barbón said left him ‘baffled, angry and disappointed’.

On Monday, Spain’s secretary of state for transport Isabel Pardo de Vera tendered her resignation in connection with the blunder, as did Isaías Táboas, the president of Renfe.

The mistake means the trains will now be delivered in 2026, two years late.

New transport secretary Raquel Sánchez has been at pains to make amends for the error in the meantime, announcing free travel on the line until the new stock arrives and repeatedly emphasising that the errors had been spotted before any train was built, which meant ‘not a single euro of Spaniards’ money has been wasted’ as a result of the blunder.

‘From the outset, we’ve accepted responsibility, said sorry, recognised the mistake and determined responsibility,’ he said.

‘We’ve also begun an internal audit and put together a working group to find a solution and speed up construction of the trains as much as possible.’

A statement from the transport ministry on Saturday said: ‘The search for, and approval, of the optimal solution when it comes to designing the most spacious, modern, fast and efficient train possible, while also bearing in mind the singular rail infrastructure has not led to any wasteful use of public resources.’ 

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