Spain - Infrastructure, power, and communications

The most developed part of Spain's infrastructure is the train system, which is one of the best in Western Europe. The National Network of Spanish Railroads (Renfe) operates the best part of Spain's 15,430 kilometers (9,588 miles, 1999) of railroads which originate from Madrid as the center point. Several lines were eliminated in the 1980s after the company experienced losses. However, in 1990 an ambitious long-term investment program was initiated with the goal of introducing super-speed trains on several lines. Similar to the TGV in France, Spain's AVE started high-speed train operations between Madrid and Seville. As a result, a trip that would otherwise last approximately 5 hours by car could be completed in almost 2 hours. A similar high-speed line linking Madrid and Barcelona is presently under construction and is expected to be completed by 2003. At the regional level, the Cercanias is a rail system that links smaller communities (or suburban areas) to the closest major city, being most fully operative in major urban centers such as Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, and Seville. For example, Madrid Cercanias links the southern part of Madrid (Getafe, which is about 20 kilometers south of Madrid) with the north (Tres Cantos, approximately 30 kilometers north), with trains running approximately every 10-15 minutes and generally always on schedule. At the urban level, all major cities have a metro (subway) system, which allows for quick travel within the city. Madrid has the most extensive metro at present with 10 lines operating.

With regard to roads, Spain's 343,389 kilometers (213,382 miles, 1999) of paved highway are similarly radial

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Spain 100 333 506 11.8 179 17.8 144.8 76.75 4,652
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
France 218 937 601 27.5 188 47.4 207.8 110.64 5,370
Portugal 75 304 542 59.8 309 7.0 81.3 59.40 700
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

dial in design and 9,063 kilometers (5,632 miles) of it is expressway (1997). Most of the road network has only been constructed in the second half of the 20th century, primarily due to the efforts of the Spanish Socialists in the early 1980s. Nevertheless, despite the major restructuring of roads over the last 30 years, many complain that it is not sufficient for the greatly increased traffic, which is very heavy both on the highways and in cities. Examples of the former can be seen in the over-congested highways between Barcelona and Madrid and Bilbao and Madrid. Congestion is especially problematic in larger urban centers such as Madrid and Barcelona where a 20-minute journey by car usually translates into 1.5 hours during rush hour.

With respect to airports, there are 99 usable airports in Spain and 42 of them receive commercial traffic. The busiest is Madrid's Barajas airport, which has been recently expanded with the addition of the infamous "third runway" that took several years to plan and finally complete. The second busiest is Prats Airport in Barcelona, and the third is the international airport in Palma de Mallorca, which is a popular tourist spot. Both Barajas and Prats enjoy daily flights from all EU capitals as well as the United States. The major carrier operating out of them is the national airline Iberia, which up until recently was state-owned; it was fully privatized (sold to private investors) in 2001. Although Iberia's fleet seems less modern than some other European carriers, a recent major purchase of several A-320s from Airbus will help in its drive to full modernization.

Due to its long coastline, Spain depends heavily on maritime transport for the import and export of goods to both European states as well as those outside of Western Europe. Its merchant marine and fishing fleet is among the largest and most important in the world. Traffic is heavily concentrated in the ports of Bilbao, Algeciras, Tarragona, and Barcelona.

Although Spain's infrastructure is similar to the rest of Western Europe, there is nevertheless an ongoing process of upgrading roads, airports, seaports, and railroads through public, private, and joint investment. The continuation of investment is necessary primarily because the government has made commitments to improving the infrastructure through EU funding conditions. In particular, part of the Maastricht Treaty earmarked funds towards the development of Spain's infrastructure through what are referred to as Cohesion Funds. Similarly, the European Commission's White Book on Growth Competitiveness and Employment stressed infrastructure development in order to make the economy more competitive.

Almost half of Spanish electricity is based on fossil fuels (48.23 percent), 31.23 percent on nuclear power, 19.16 percent on hydroelectricity, and 1.38 percent by other means (1998). In 1998 Spain produced 179.468 billion kWh of electricity and of that consumed only 170.306 billion kWh. National shortage of petroleum and gas is compensated with nuclear energy. The main electricity companies in Spain are Endesa and Iberdrola. Both are national companies, although full liberalization of the electricity sector has taken place in principle. Nevertheless, because both major operators have approximately 80 percent of the market, foreign investors are more seriously considering the strategy of buying parts of these 2 companies in order to enter into the Spanish market (as has been the case of German electricity companies seeking to buy Iberdrola).

Spanish telecommunications facilities are generally modern and are experiencing dramatic economic growth. The main operator in Spain is Telefónica. At present, the mobile telephone business is flourishing. In 1999 there were 17.336 million main telephone lines and 8.396 million cellular phones. The popularity of mobile phones has risen with the aggressive marketing strategies of new telephone companies such as Airtel and Amena, which have sought to enter the communications market previously dominated by Telefónica. The number of Internet service providers (49 in 1999) was expected to grow beyond saturation point, after which competition is expected to root out the weaker companies. Because local calls in Spain are not free, there is a push to establish an industry-wide regulation aimed at eliminating the price of calls associated with Internet connection time. Such efforts to promote Internet use would increase the number of personal computers in Spain, which is one of the lowest in the European Community.

Almost all Spanish homes have a television (99.7 percent) and 91 percent of Spaniards watch television every day. There is a comparable decline in newspapers: 10 to 15 percent of the population frequently buys and reads newspapers, a majority of which are actually sports newspapers (such as Marca y As ) as opposed to those predominately concerned with current events (such as El Pais, El Mundo, Diario 16, and ABC ). Most Spaniards receive the daily news from the television as opposed to the paper, with radio as their second choice; almost 60 percent listen to the radio daily, where talk shows are the leading radio programs. Until 1990 the Spanish only had the 2 channels provided by the state-run Television Española (TVE) and regional stations run by the autonomous governments (such as Telemadrid for the community of Madrid). Commercial television was authorized in 1989 and broadcasting fully liberalized in 1998. As a result, there are 4 main channels that can be freely viewed at the national level: La 1 (the main state station from RTE), La 2 (the second state channel which is dedicated to more cultural programming), Antena 3, and Telecinco. There are also 6 regional and over 75 local stations. TVE still runs large budget deficits and is accused by the opposition of favoring the government party in its news coverage. It has recently been absorbed into the state holding company, SEPI, in order to deal with its financial problems and help in its management. La 2 has the highest acclaimed nightly newscast. Two additional channels, Canal Plus and Via Digital, offer newly released movies as well as some major sporting events for a monthly fee by cable and satellite. Yet, only 10 percent of Spanish homes have either satellite or cable television. By 2010, it is estimated that all Spaniards should have access to Terrestrial Digital TV, and significant growth is predicted, especially for cable television.

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