"LLEIDA, Spain -- When President Obama announced in April his $13 billion plan to propel the United States into the age of high-speed rail, he tipped his hat to the trains that zip between the cities of the Old Continent at up to 217 miles an hour.
Spain, an enthusiastic latecomer to high-speed rail, on Friday will complete a six-day tour of European transit systems that it presented to the American transportation secretary, Ray H. LaHood. Officials say the Spanish experience could hold lessons in what works and what does not.
Spain opened its first Alta Velocidad Española, or AVE, high-speed train route in 1992, between Madrid and Seville. The network has grown to nearly 2,000 kilometers and stretches from Malaga on the south coast to Barcelona, which is north and east.
Supporters say the AVE has begun to transform the country, binding remote and sometimes restive regions to Madrid and leading traditionally homebound Spaniards to move around for work or leisure."