RENFE operates Spain's 15,000 km (or 9,500 mile) system of railways. For historic reasons, the tracks built until 1988 are broad-gauge tracks, wider than the tracks of most other European countries.
In addition to intercity transport, RENFE operates commuter train systems in a number of major cities, including Madrid and Barcelona. (In the latter it is supplemented by the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya , Catalonia's rail system.)
In the year 1988 construction of the high-speed rail between Madrid and Seville began, and in 1991 operation of this line was started. The second high-speed rail, from Madrid to Barcelona, is under construction. The biggest part of the line, from Madrid to Lleida, was put in service on October 11, 2003; the extension to Barcelona, is foreseen for 2005. Another high speed route from Madrid to Valladolid is under construction, and other lines to Valencia and Lisbon are being designed.
The Spanish high-speed system is called AVE. The name is an acronym of Alta Velocidad Espaņola (Spanish high-speed), but "ave" is at the same time the Spanish word for "bird".
The high-speed tracks are built to the standard European gauge. Speed on the Seville line is 300 km/h. The line to Lleida is slower, though engineering upgrades to bring it up to 350 km/h are promised.