A reinstated railway reconnects communities in central Pyrenees

The reopening of a disused rail connection through the central Pyrenees border region between France and Spain has invigorated local economies, improved transit options for passengers and freight and provided unique opportunities for tourism to flourish in this cross-border region.

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Train tracks  © Creative Commons Train tracks © Creative Commons

" The reopening of the railway line has meant the rebirth and development of the territory. Reopening the international line also helps to strengthen Europe and addresses economic development and environmental challenges. "

Cristina Igoa, Responsible for communication, Cross-border programme Spain-France-Andorra (POCTEFA)

The Spain-France border spans more than 650 kilometres of mostly difficult mountain terrain, making rail and road crossings costly and difficult. The only train connection in the central Pyrenees managing to cross the border was closed down in 1970 when a bridge on the French side collapsed. 

The EU-funded CANFRANEUS project set out in 2011 to reinstate that crossing to boost freight and passenger transport through the Pyrenees. The new line is now open and provides a vital cross-border link supporting local economies and communities along the route.  

Green alternative

During an age of grand industrial projects, transport authorities in Spain and France blazed a trail through the high Pyrenees at the beginning of the 20th century. The resulting railway line connected communities in Pau (France) and Canfranc (Spain) for four decades until the cost of upkeep and renewal outweighed the perceived benefit as road transport grew in popularity. 

But today, with increasingly busy roads and shifting attention to sustainable alternatives for moving people and goods, railways are back in vogue. Thanks to local, regional and EU support and encouragement, the Pau-Canfranc line was given a second chance.

Growing opportunities

The renewal of the rail connection has provided new opportunities for once isolated villages, providing access to markets in nearby cities on either side of the border, and it has opened up the attractions of this breath-taking region to increasing numbers of tourists.
Thanks to better access and connections, this cross-border initiative has helped to stimulate the local economy. Other benefits of the project include a renewed spirit of cooperation and partnership between mountain communities and municipalities either side of the border.

Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for the project “Para la reapertura de la línea feroviaria internacional Pau-Canfranc” is EUR 3 659 696, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing       EUR 2 378 802 through the “Interreg V-A - Spain-France-Andorra (POCTEFA)”  Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

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