Madrid-Valencia high-speed rail link to open December 18

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A high-speed rail link between Madrid and Valencia, Spain's third-largest city, will open on December 18, Transport Minister Jose Blanco announced Saturday.

He said the new service would mean 21 Spanish cities will be linked to high-speed rail lines.

The new service, which will cut the journey to some 90 minutes from almost four hours currently, will be opened in two stages.

The first section, from Madrid to the towns of Cuenca and Albacete, will enter operation on December 15, with the line from Cuenca to Valencia opening three days later, Blanco told a news conference.

A test run on the 438-kilometre (271-mile) high-speed link will be carried out on October 13.

Spain has steadily expanded its high-speed railway links since it opened its first such route in April 1992 between Madrid and the southwestern city of Seville.

It currently has the most extensive high-speed rail network in Europe with 5,525 kilometres already in place or under construction, according to the International Union of Railways.

The Spanish government plans to increase the high-speed network to more than 7,000 kilometres by 2015.

© 2010 AFP

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