Barcelona rail services brought to a standstill after control center failure

Services returning to normal after IT fault affects 80,000 passengers

Passengers at Barcelona’s main Sants station.
Passengers at Barcelona’s main Sants station.ALBERT GARCIA

An incident in the Barcelona control center that controls all trains operated by state rail firm Renfe in Catalonia plunged regional services into chaos on Thursday morning.

The IT breakdown in the early hours brought Cercanías commuter trains and other regional services to a halt, the company said.

The fault was stabilized just after 9am, bringing normality back to Barcelona’s main Sants station, though trains on the Rodalies-operated Cercanías network are subject to delays.

It’s as if the control tower broke down at an airport” Renfe spokesman

The failure ended up affecting 200 short- and medium-distance trains and around 80,000 passengers between 6.15am and 8am, according to Félix Martín, director of Rodalies de Catalunya.

“It’s as if the control tower broke down at an airport,” explained a Renfe spokesman. According to information on the Barcelona Cercanías website early Thursday morning, trains on lines R1, R2, R3, R4, R7 and R8 were all at a standstill in stations. Only AVE and Avant high-speed services had not been affected, Renfe said.

The breakdown caused communication systems to stop working across the network, leading the majority of the lights that control the entrance of trains into stations to remain on red. After various attempts to restart the system, the problem was resolved at around 8am, though normality did not resume at stations until around an hour later.

This is not the first time that the Barcelona control center, which is run by state rail infrastructure manager Adif, has been affected by such a failure. Two incidents in April also left the network with services, one due to a software problem and another because of an electrical fault.

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