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Spain’s rail head resigns over bungled train orders resulting in trains too wide for tunnels


The head of Spain’s state rail operator Renfe has resigned following outcry over an order of commuter trains too wide to fit through some tunnels.

The mistake has caused an uproar in Spain since it was first revealed in the media in early February, with the country expected to go the polls at the end of the year.

Isaias Taboas, who has headed Renfe since June 2018, submitted his resignation on Monday, a company spokeswoman told AFP.

Spain’s secretary of state for transport, Isabel Pardo de Vera, who used to head state rail infrastructure operator Adif, also stepped down on Monday over the scandal, the transport ministry said.

Renfe in June 2020 ordered 31 commuter trains worth 258 million euros ($402 million) from Spanish firm CAF for the mountainous northern regions of Asturias and Cantabria.

But in March 2021, CAF realised the dimensions it was provided for the trains were not correct and stopped building the trains, which would have been too wide for some tunnels.

Built in the 19th century, the rail network in northern Spain crosses a mountainous landscape and it has varying tunnel sizes that do not adhere to standard modern dimensions.

Error results in trains delivery delayed until 2026

The head of the regional government of Cantabria, Miguel Angel Revilla, had called it a “monumentally botched job” and demanded that heads roll over the affair.

Both Spain’s central government and Renfe have repeatedly said the error was spotted early on and no money has been wasted.

Renfe has stressed that there was “never any risk” that the 31 trains would have been built since CAF was obligated by its contract to verify the dimensions before starting construction.

Nevertheless, the error means the trains will only be delivered in 2026 instead of 2024 as initially planned, Renfe said.

Speaking to reporters on Monday after the announcement of the resignations, Mr Revilla demanded “compensation” for his region.

Adif and Renfe have opened a joint investigation to determine how the mistake happened.

Spain’s transport ministry had already earlier this month fired two senior rail officials over the affair — a Renfe manager and Adif’s head of track technology.

Source : ABC News