The Catalan Socialist politician Raül Blanco will become the new president of Renfe, replacing Isaías Taboas, who resigned this Monday. This is confirmed by sources from the Spanish transport ministry, who add that the new secretary of state for Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda will be David Lucas, until now secretary general of Housing. The two appointments follow two departures - Taboas submitted his resignation to the minister Raquel Sánchez, while former secretary Isabel Pardo de Vera was dismissed - amid Spain's train fiasco, after the autonomous governments of Cantabria and Asturias reported that the trains planned to serve their territory would not fit through the tunnels in the northern Spanish lines. Both the new positions will be officially appointed this Tuesday at the weekly meeting of the Spanish cabinet.
The new appointments were announced just hours after minister Raquel Sánchez administered the departures of those with responsibility for the controversy over the trains that did not fit in the tunnels: dismissing the former ministerial undersecretary in the area and previous president of the rail infrastructure company Adif, Isabel Pardo de Vera, and accepting the resignation of Renfe head, Isaías Taboas. These are not the only charges that have taken place after the startling announcement on the dimensions of the new trains from the governments of Cantabria and Asturias: the minister forced the resignation of the head of Adif's road inspection and technology area, as well as the manager of Cantabria's trains, which belong to Renfe. Both, however, were due to leave their positions soon.
Blanco, the new president of the rail operator Renfe has had a long career linked to the Catalan Socialists (PSC) while also having close links to Asturias, and is currently a senior official in the Spanish ministry of industry, tourism and commerce. Raül Blanco replaces Isaías Taboas, who among other governmental positions was a key aide to the then-Catalan president José Montilla (also PSC), from 2006 to 2010.
Error has caused a two-to-three year delay
The controversy erupted at the beginning of this February. The Pedro Sánchez government recognized that thirty new trains destined for the regional service in the Cantabria and Asturias network could not fit through the tunnels, because no one had calculated that they were too big. The transport ministry itself admitted what the "problem" was: having chosen trains that were too big for tunnels that were built in the 19th century. The Spanish government assured that Renfe was already working with the manufacturer of the convoys to have new trains "as soon as possible". However, from the outset it was known that this negligence would cause a delay of about 2 or 3 years. In addition, the contract for the oversized trains was worth 258 million euros, and they had to renew the fleet for Cantabria and design new trains for Asturias.
The Transport secretary general acknowledged that this contract had had "a problem relating to how we should dimension these trains". In this regard, he explained that the narrow gauge Feve lines, along Spain's northern Atlantic coast, are "very special" and that they have tunnels that have "smaller than usual" clearances. The problem started from the detailed rail network measurements published in the tender, which curiously did not include these limitations, and when the problem was established and it was verified that the trains would not fit in certain sections of the infrastructure, the start of the manufacturing process had to be halted.