After a wait that lasted for two decades, Spain has completed the seventh-longest high-speed rail tunnel in Europe.
Construction of the almost 25-kilometre-long Pajares Base Tunnel began in 2003 and led to the creation of a twin pair of railway tunnels beneath Puerto de Pajares, a mountain pass in the Cantabrian Mountains.
Costing some €4billion (£3.43bn), this project experienced numerous setbacks and delays partially because of geological conditions, including the water in the tunnels.
While it was initially expected to be launched in 2010, the tunnel was officially opened on November 30 this year.
The Pajares Base Tunnel forms part of the nearly 50-kilometre (30 miles) Pajares Bypass between Pola de Lena in Asturias and La Robla in León.
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Its launch is finally giving the chance to locals and tourists alike to quickly travel from the Asturias region to Castile and León.
The Bypass features a total of 12 tunnels and 10 viaducts and serves both passenger and freight traffic.
The Spanish Government hopes that more people will opt to travel by train rather than aircraft thanks to the bypass – a move that would help reduce CO2 emissions.
And tourists who want to see different aspects of Spain during their holidays will surely take advantage of the Pajares line.
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The Asturias region is famous around the world for its rugged coastal cliffs, lush vegetation and mountainous setting.
Despite its beauty and varied landscapes, parts of the province have struggled with population decline in recent years. Moreover, the area is not as popular with tourists as elsewhere in Spain.
By making Asturias more accessible with railway links, authorities hope the region will see more people visiting it and even establishing a home there.
The line ends in the province of León, home to some of Spain’s most stunning lakes and hiking trails, including Lago Ausente.
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The completion of the Pajares Base Tunnel adds to the already notable high-speed railway links existing across Spain and makes it easier to travel to the northern Spanish regions from Madrid.
Authorities expect the new line will rake in around €1.25 million (£1.07m) in ticket sales during its first year of operations.
The Mediterranean country has the most extensive high-speed rail in Europe and is second in the world only to China.
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