The King of Spain, Felipe VI, was there to preside over the inauguration of the new high-speed line in Galicia.

This week, high-speed trains began running on the final section of a line that connects Spain’s capital, Madrid, with the Galicia region of northwest Spain. Work on the line began in 2005. Spain’s transport minister called the just-finished section “without a doubt the most complicated of the entire Spanish rail network.”

The 68-mile section, which passes through the Galician Massif mountain range, has 30 viaducts and 30 bridges. Although much of the overall line was completed more than a decade ago, work on the new section was slowed by engineering challenges and by the global financial crisis of 2008.

The section reduces the 310-mile trip from Madrid to Ourense (in Galicia) from about 4 hours to 2 hours, 15 minutes. The number of daily round trips between the cities will increase as well, from 6 to 10. The faster travel time between Madrid and Ourense will also slash travel times between Madrid and other destinations across the Galicia region by up to 1.5 hours.

Travel times on the line will be reduced yet again—by about 20 minutes—in the summer of 2022. That’s when the Spanish train operator, Renfe, plans to introduce Talgo trains that run at up to 205 mph and have nearly 600 seats. Talgo notes that, “thanks to their high capacity and light overall weight,” they will “minimize energy consumption and multiply efficiency. This allows them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and further enhance the position of rail as the most sustainable means of transport.”

The slashed travel times will make train travel much more competitive with flying on Madrid to Galicia routes. With check-in and terminal time factored in, the one-hour flight is roughly the same as a train trip.

Air travel currently has about 80 percent of the travel market for Madrid to Galicia. Renfe aims for the share of train travel to rise to 50 percent over the near term.

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