How is the railway industry organized in Spain?


Rail sector of countries present a set of entities, organizations and public and private companies, being generally organized in a complex manner. In this article, we explain the different entities of the railway sector in Spain, what responsibilities each one of them has and what interrelation it has between them.

Main entities within the railway sector

  • Railway Companies.
  • Administrators of Railway Infrastructure.
  • Railway Safety Agency (in Spanish, Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Ferroviaria (AESF)).
  • Rail accident agency (in Spanish, Comisión de Accidentes Ferroviarios (CIAF)).
  • General Secretariat for Transport (from Ministry of Public Works and Transport, in Spanish Ministerio de Fomento).
  • General Secretariat for Transport (from Ministry of Public Works and Transport, in Spanish Ministerio de Fomento).
  • The National Commission on Markets and Competition (Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia, CNMC in Spanish).
  • Attestation body and evaluators.
  • Others (manufacturers, maintainers, training centres, medical centres, maintenance centres).

Railway Companies

Railway Companies are those entities holding a license that allows them to provide passenger or freight transport services by railways. Currently, companies with this license can be consulted under the following link, Railway Companies >>.

RENFE Operadora is a public business entity within this group of companies, being attached to the Ministerio de Fomento (Ministry of Development). Having its own capitals, trains and workshops and garages, among others, the purpose is providing transportation service and complementary activities, such as maintenance of rolling stock.

Administrators of Railway Infrastructure

The main function of Administrations of Railway Infrastructure is the following one:

  • Approval of construction projects and the administration of railway infrastructures, including control and inspection of the assets that it manages, of its protection zones and of the railway circulation that occurs over it.
  • Making available to the capacity of its assets to the railway companies that are granted the license for their exploitation.
  • Charge for the fees for use of the railway infrastructures they manage.
  • Preparation, approval and publication of the declaration on the network.

Currently, infrastructure management functions of the General Interest Railway Network (Red Ferroviaria de Interés General in Spanish or RFIG) are carried out by public business enterprises attached to the Ministerio de Fomento (Ministry of Development): ADIF high-speed, ADIF and LFP. The latter, which is less well-known, is a collaboration between ADIF and SNCF for the management of international line Figueras-Perpignan.

Railway Safety Agency (in Spanish, Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Ferroviaria (AESF))

AESF performs the role of authority responsible for rail safety of RFIG, as set out by European Directives. The AESF is a public body responsible for the management and supervision of ALL the elements of the railway system: operational, railway personnel, mobile equipment and infrastructure, granting licenses so that these elements can execute their activities.

It is also responsible for all regulations and functions related to Interoperability.

Rail accident agency (in Spanish, Comisión de Accidentes Ferroviarios (CIAF))

The CIAF is a collegiate and independent body, also attached to the Ministry of Development(Ministerio de Fomento), which has the competence to carry out the technical investigations of RFIG rail accidents.

Secretaría General de Transporte

La Secretaría General del Transporte es la responsable de la ordenación general del transporte, entre otros el transporte terrestre y en particular, el ferroviario. Esta ordenación la puede llevar a cabo ya que tiene competencia para la elaboración, inspección, control y sanción de  normativas para el establecimiento de las reglas básicas del mercado ferroviario, participación en la elaboración de normas a nivel Europeo, etc.


General Secretariat for Transport(in Spanish, Secretaría General de Transporte)

The General Secretariat of Transport (Secretaría General de Transporte) is responsible for the general management of transport, including land transport and rail, particularly. This arrangement can be carried out as it has competence for development, inspection, control and sanction of regulations for establishing basic rules of rail market, taking part in the development of standards at European level, etc. It promotes as well, the development of investments in rail transport for conducting prospective, informative, economic, financial and territorial studies, expropriation actions and elaboration of general provisions related to their competences.

The National Commission on Markets and Competition (Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia, CNMC in Spanish)

CNMC promotes and defends the proper functioning of all markets in the interest of consumers and companies. It is attached to the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and it has its own legal personality, as well as full public and private legal capacity. It acts as an independent regulator of strategic economic sectors such as energy, and postal sector, railway or airport markets, among others.

Competent bodies and evaluators

These organisms can be divided into four large groups:

  • Notified Body or NoBo. Responsible for carrying out "CE" verification of the interoperability of subsystems and assess compliance for their use.
  • Designated Body or DeBo. Being responsible for carrying out the verification of subsystems for compliance with national standards
  • Independent Safety Assessor or ISA. In accordance with CENELEC standards.
  • Risk Assessment Body or AsBo. In accordance with Regulation (EU) No 402/2013 and accredited by ENAC.
  • Accredited laboratories. Used for the execution of tests and trials within the verification processes for the authorization of entry into service of railway elements and components.

Other Services

Within this last "catch-all" area, there are manufacturers of railway systems, both rolling stock and infrastructure, maintenance companies, training centres for railway personnel (drivers, pilots, etc.), approved medical centres for railway personnel and maintenance centres.

Leedeo Engineering, engineering specialist in the railway sector. Talent and experience at the service of railway companies.

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