Technological evolution should not be at the expense of environmental sensitivity. The Ministry of Development and Adif Alta Velocidad advocate and promote the development of a truly sustainable and nature-friendly railway.
Integrating the train with the environment is a substantial part of the philosophy that inspires all the actions of the Ministry of Development, including those entrusted to Adif Alta Velocidad, which during the works scrupulously respects the conditions specified in the ruling of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for each section of works or with the protection and conservation of the archaeological-cultural heritage.
Indeed, one of Adif's main concerns is respect for the environment. That is why 12% of the budget for the construction of high-speed railways has been earmarked to guarantee their environmental integration, ensuring compliance with Environmental Impact Statements and making improvements to the environment on a voluntary basis.
Corrective measures have been designed all along the line to achieve the environmental and landscape recovery of the land crossed by the line and to facilitate the faunal crossing.
As an example, it should be noted that by December 2009, a total of 350 wildlife crossings had been installed. These steps provide corridors for the fauna so that its mobility within the ecosystem is not affected. The gauge of these passes allows the transit of ungulate mammals (deer, roe deer, wild boar, etc.).
The pace of construction work is adapted to bird nesting periods and construction techniques have been chosen to minimise the impact on the natural environment.
The Ministry of Development, through Adif Alta Velocidad, collaborates with public institutions and authorities in order to preserve historical and cultural heritage. Along the 955 km of the Madrid-Castile La Mancha-Valencian Community-Murcia Region line, 47 sites have been found with a total extension of 104,778 m2.
The following are some of the most important works and discoveries related to the environment and archaeological and cultural heritage, which demonstrate Adif's interest in protecting the environment and cultural heritage.
The main goal of the Life Impact Zero project (Development and demonstration of an anti-bird strike tubular screen for High Speed Rail lines), co-financed by the European Commission's "Life" programme, is to determine measures to protect birdlife by using anti-collision screens on high-speed rail lines. To this end, this project will evaluate the effectiveness of a new anti-collision screen design, based on the concept of a "free-standing tube screen".
At the beginning, between Aranjuez (Madrid) and Ontígola (Toledo), the new line passes near what is known as “Mar de Ontígola”, a wetland located in the El Regajal Nature Reserve (Toledo). The 4.7 km long El Regajal tunnel has been built to cross this area and to protect the flora and fauna of this environment as much as possible. This tunnel has allowed the conservation of several highly threatened endemic butterflies, of great environmental value.
The Natural Park of El Regajal is a site of exceptional importance for its flora and fauna, in which botanical and especially entomological elements of extraordinary value can be found, such as some endemic butterflies that are highly threatened, like Zerynthia rumina, known as the harlequin butterfly, and the "Saturnia pyri", the giant peacock moth.
The plant Pimpinela mayor, a shrub associated with the gypsiferous cliffs used by Maculinea nausithous, a butterfly endemic to this area, has also been protected. This endangered butterfly, the dusky large blue, lays its eggs on the flower heads of the bush, which serve as food for the caterpillars. In fact, it is only present in eleven locations on the Iberian Peninsula.
To minimise environmental impact, a concrete waste recycling system has been installed on the railway line between Horcajada and Naharros (Cuenca), which separates the wash water and aggregates from the waste from the concrete mixer trucks. In this way, both resources are reused in the manufacture of new concrete.
Systems have also been used to reduce pollutants into the atmosphere, by installing eco-engines in all heavy vehicles. In addition, a study has been carried out on the effect of noise in the urban hub closest to the works (Naharros).
At the mouth of the tunnel on the Horcajada side, a Roman gypsum crystal mine site has been discovered, and the mine has been left accessible so that archaeologists can study the site.
The high-speed works have led to the discovery of a palaeontological site in Fuentes (Cuenca), dating back about 80 million years, including the remains of Titanosaurs.
When, at the beginning of 2007, the heavy machinery responsible for clearing land for the Madrid-Valencia high-speed train line reached the Fuentes area, nobody imagined that they would unearth, at a depth of 20 metres, a palaeontological treasure called "Lo Hueco", already considered by Spanish palaeontologists to be the largest and richest dinosaur site in Europe.
During the excavation of the fossils, work was halted in the area where the fossils were found in order to facilitate their location, documentation, cataloguing and protection, while the construction of the infrastructure in other areas of the section was still in progress.
8,000 fossils have been extracted so far, including many articulated specimens.
The Contreras Reservoir area constitutes a special case in terms of the works, which were designed and planned to cause the least possible impact on the environment.
Due to the natural conditions, the construction projects have taken into account the existing environmental corridors, the development rhythms of the works have been adapted to the nesting periods of birds, and the construction techniques have been exclusively designed to minimise any impacts.
A sound level study and monitoring has been carried out in the area to adapt the construction of the section to the specifications of the analysis carried out in order to establish exclusion polygons and propose options and recommendations when executing the works.
Special attention has been paid to the protected species that inhabit the working area, such as the Golden Eagle, the Bonelli's Eagle, the Eagle Owl and the Peregrine Falcon. With the aim of identifying the pairs of birds of prey, monitoring and control is being carried out from the beginning to the end of the works in order to limit the activities and adapt them to environmental needs.
Throughout the entire period of works, from March to June, no clearing, clearing, blasting, earthmoving was undertaken, and night work was avoided along a 9 km stretch.
The design and construction of the central arch of the Contreras Reservoir viaduct has met, at all times, the requirements of the Environmental Impact Statement for the area.
Close to the town of Manuel L'Enova, a Roman villa and farm of exceptional importance was found. Adif modified the original project in order to conserve this site by building two viaducts to preserve it. The archaeological remains found have been incorporated into the museum collections of the Directorate General of Valencian Cultural Heritage and Museums of the Generalitat Valenciana.
The archaeological remains have been covered with a geotextile mantle and filled with protective material to preserve the site.
These works have involved an additional investment of approximately 10 million euros with the sole objective of preserving the site.
To better integrate the infrastructures with the environment, Adif has built, parallel to the high-speed infrastructure between Alcáser and Torrent, a cycle and pedestrian path, with native trees planted on the slopes, for the use and enjoyment of the population.