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High Speed Train Basque Country, Spain


Basque Y is the high-speed rail network being built between the three cities of the Basque Country autonomous community, in Spain; Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Donostia-San Sebastián. It will transport cargo and passengers. It will connect Madrid via Valladolid and connect France via Irun. Meanwhile the French high-speed rail line (on which the TGV trains achieve their top speeds) is not planned to reach Hendaye until 2020. The network will also include a connection to the Navarrese Corridor, the high speed line projected between Zaragoza and the capital of Navarre, Pamplona.

The provision was to launch the railway on 2013 but the cuts on the budget have delayed considerably the project.

There has been huge criticism coming from several social groups namely: political parties, unions, ecologists and local community associations.

In the late 2000s the armed group ETA –no longer active since 2011- stepped into the conflict bombing offices or machinery from some companies responsible of the works and killing the owner of one of them. Hence, activists suffered extra repression coming from state forces.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:High Speed Train Basque Country, Spain
State or province:Basque Country autonomous community
Location of conflict:Several. Main ones: Astigarraga, Bilbao, Vitoria, Irún, San Sebastián, Ezkio-Itsaso
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Tourism services
Transportation Services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

From the 157 km 105,9 km (62%) will be in 80 tunnels and 10% in 71 bridges.

Project area:2,500 km
Level of Investment:8,100,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:15/03/2001
Company names or state enterprises:Ferrovial from Spain
Acciona from Spain
Amenabar from Spain
Uria y Altuna from Spain
Fonorte from Spain
Relevant government actors:Basque Country autonomous community Government, Ministry of Development, Local councils and province authorities
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Union (EU)
European Investment Bank (EIB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:AHT Gelditu Elkarana. Platform uniting a wide range of agents opposing the project., Asamblea contra el TAV

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Deaths
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Development of alternatives:Most of the alternatives proposed advocated for a more social train and rejected the model of high speed train.
Given that, the were advocating for a change in the model of development.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:With a strong tradition of social mobilization in the Basque Country, opponents achieved a great degree of support, but this was not enough to stop the project. Besides, the economic crisis forced a delay in the works (some stretches accumulate more than 2 years of delay).

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Bermejo R. (2004) Análisis de rentabilidad del proyecto de la ‘Y’ vasca y bases para una estrategia ferroviaria alternativa. Bilbao (in Spanish).

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Article in The Guradian:

Anti-TAV Cantabria Assembly Documents site (Spanish):

Wikipedia site:

Website of the project:

Project information:

Railway Gazette International:

AHT Gelditu Elkarlana site (Spanish and French):

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Anti TAV Assembly Gallery:

Video Gallery (idem):

Meta information

Contributor:Alfred Burballa Noria
Last update24/06/2014