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Hendaye - Irun (France - Spain)

Different track gauges, a constricted site, growing freight traffic... the Hendaye-Irun complex on the Franco-Spanish border faces many operating constraints, which led the SNCF in particular to carry out important upgrades from the 1970s onward. The latest of them, intended to increase the capacity of the freight yard, are currently in progress.

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Like the twin stations of » Cerbère and Port-Bou, those at Hendaye and Irun function as termini for the passenger traffic in the north-to-south and south-to-north directions respectively.

So far as international freight is concerned, their operation is identical with the Transfesa facilities for axle exchange in Hendaye on the French side, while transhipment is performed at Irun. In addition, Hendaye handles an important proportion of tonnage transferred from rail to road and vice versa, because of the RENFE's lack of equipment.

If the Spanish station of Irun, located at the exit of the bridge over the Bidassoa that forms the border, could be expanded without too many problems, the enlargement of that of Hendaye, wedged between the city and Chingudy bay, required extensive work which is described below. Moreover, its installations are being upgraded in order to rationalize the operations related to freight.

schematic map of track layout

Before examining their respective operations, some historical details may be of interest. On April 21, 1864, the Compagnie du Midi opened the Bayonne-Hendaye section, the natural prolongation of the radial line from Bordeaux via the Landes. The final 2 km linking Hendaye with the station of Irun in Spain was built at the same time. Initially the installations were modest, but they were enlarged repeatedly as the international traffic developed.

Historic view of Hendaye station
Hendaye station at 1900
Historic view of Hendaye-Plage
Hendaye-Plage about 1920
TGV passing Les Deux Jumeaux
Hendaye-Plage in 2004
© Collection Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

Historic impression of international bridge
Historic view of Irún station
Historic view of Irún station
The station of Irún and the international bridge in the early 20th century.
© Collection Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

Under the terms of a diplomatic agreement concluded on 8 April 1864 between the two countries, the arrangements for handling the traffic provide that the French passenger trains terminate in Irun and the Spanish ones terminate in Hendaye, returning empty across the border. Because of the difference in track gauge, the standard and broad-gauge tracks overlap in both stations. On the French side, the line to Hendaye was electrified at 1,5 kV DC in 1927 and the single track from Hendaye to Irun was electrified in 1929. That year the Norte Company also equipped its broad-gauge track Hendaye - Irun and the double track 104 km onwards towards Asasua at this voltage.

Because of the serious events related to the civil war in Spain, the border was closed in 1936. After nationalization of the French railways in 1938, the station of Hendaye, modelled according to Midi practice, was managed by the South-western area of the SNCF. During the second world war, Spain, which adopted a position of non-belligerency, remained largely self-sufficient.

Midi 1751 on the international bridge
Midi class 800
Midi class 800
Classes 800 and 1751 of Compagnie du Midi working at Irún
© Collection Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

Trade with Spain and Portugal resumed slowly after the armistice. In September 1945, a single overnight express train coming from Paris (trains 33/34) offered connections in Irun onwards towards Madrid and Lisbon, linking the capitals in 35 and 51 hours respectively!

To deal with the problems of transhipping freight, mainly fruit and vegetables, which were most acute from October to May, the Transfesa company created a small workshop for replacing axles at the station beside Chingudy bay in 1950. In the following years, new signal boxes replaced out of date installations; thus Poste 1 was equipped with a type MU45 panel and Poste 4 was upgraded to an EMU (unified electromechanical) type, in particular, the latter controlled access to the RENFE's single track. Operational difficulties increased because of the growth in this traffic, while the number of passenger trains was also rising rapidly, especially during summer:
  • at the international level, with the opening of Spain to tourism, facilitated by the liberalization of foreign exchange in 1960, the flow of emigrants and their families returning to their countries of origin (Spain, Portugal), and workers from these countries employed in German and Swiss industries returning from their holidays
  • at the domestic level, with French holiday-makers coming to stay on the Basque Coast and its hinterland (Urugne, Béhobie, Biriatou)
At the end of the 1960s, the technique of replaceable axles was also applied to certain passenger coaches, for which a hangar with four files of rails, equipped with hydraulic jacks to lift the coach body while the bogies were exchanged, was provided in the passenger zone of Hendaye. That enabled an overnight train to be operated with couchette berths running through between Paris and Madrid, known as the 'Puerta del Sol'.

There was increasing concern about the constricted space occupied by the installations of Hendaye station, the more so as other types of goods like motorcars and other products were now being handled as well as citrus fruit. In 1971, the long-distance passenger trains serving Hendaye consisted of:
  • to and from Paris, the day trains 307/304 (Sud-Express) and the rapides 4001/4000, 4044; overnight trains 303/300 (Puerta-del-Sol), 4031/4030 (Ibéria-Express) and 4025/4024
  • a day-time rapide to/from Avignon and Nice, and 5479/4578 running overnight to/from Zurich, Geneva, Evian, Lyon, Rome and Milan
In summer, as well as the seasonal overnight trains originating in Paris, or Italy via Nice and Toulouse, and the day trains coming from Geneva and Marseilles, there were numerous extra trains. The station of Hendaye also had to deal with:
  • the cyclic flows of Iberian workers organized by the Wasteels travel agency, consisting of 250 trains every year coming from Dortmund, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Hanover, Frankfurt, Basel, Zurich, with peaks of a dozen trains on certain days
  • the trains of Spanish pilgrims in transit to/from Lourdes, about thirty in all from Easter to October
At that time, the local trains serving the Basque coast were not very frequent because the long-distance trains served all the stations south of Bayonne.

General view of Irún
General view of Irún complex
Irún depot
RENFE locos at Irún depot
RENFE "Virgen de Lourdes"
RENFE class 363 at Irún
Number one
RENFE 269-001 leaving Irún
© Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

Operations at the station of Hendaye, which has only three SNCF tracks with platforms lengthened to 450 m, and another siding 100 m long on the odd side, and two separate RENFE tracks in an enclosure surrounded by a wire security fence, and of a stabling yard consisting of six 500 m tracks, only one of which has an inspection-pit, were extremely complex because shunting the sets of coaches must be made via the southern side which involves crossing the single track from Spain. In peak periods, the lack of space on the site required coach-sets to be stored up the line at Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, Dax, even Morencx, which involved very expensive ECS (empty coaching stock) movements. Apart from the slowness and annoyance due to the customs and police formalities, the endemic delays of the Hispanic trains were added, disorganizing the connections. The connection times there have to be quite long as the passengers coming from Spain and of Portugal are generally encumbered by luggage and children, which justified the creation of a specialized reception centre.

The organisation of freight traffic was worse still than that of passenger traffic, because of the increasingly greater share transported in Transfesa wagons and especially by the inadequacy of the constricted installations inherited from the heroic period of the Midi company. Some improvements had however been carried out like:
  • creation in 1966 of an additional overflow yard enclosed by tracks 48/50
  • a workshop for transferring the contents of tank wagons
  • an mini-extension of Transfesa workshop
But the major disadvantages remained, reducing the output because of the difficult, or even dangerous, working conditions.
Among the more obvious problems, requiring those concerned to achieve miracles, were:
  • the obvious inadequacy of the goods yard, composed of six relatively short tracks (22 - 32, 340-350 m long) and five tracks with buffers at their southern ends (34-42, from 270 to 360 m) overlapping with seven RENFE tracks (114-126), with a total capacity of 280 m, although the daily RA (accelerated rate) traffic often exceeds 300 coaches outbound
  • the absence of a specialised group of reception sidings, so that the trains were received on the sorting lines, which obstructs the shunting and the movement of locomotives
  • very bad conditions for marshalling, due to the bad profile of the hump, with the absence of track brakes and a decrepit ground-level signal-frame with defective lighting
  • lack of scope for simultaneous manoeuvres on the Bordeaux side, due to the shortness of the sidings
In consequence, serious constraints remained, such as saturation of the tracks, chronic delays, impossibility of forming northbound trains corresponding to the full load capacity of the locomotives, obligation to space the reception of the trains formed by the additional sorting at Morcenx.

RENFE 319-210 shunting at Irún
SNCF 63000 shunting at Irún
SNCF 463 982 shunting at Irún
RENFE and SNCF locos working next to Algeposa shed at Irún
© Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

In view of the increasing exchanges and in preparation for the appearance of future transport modes, such as the use of ISO containers, the SNCF was concerned with improving the site at Hendaye while reorganizing it and by increasing its scope. The project developed in 1968 by the South-western area, i.e. shortly before its elimination, was realized from 1970 to 1975, after an agreement between the SNCF and RENFE, and finished under the reign of the new regional direction of Bordeaux, which succeeded it. Extensive reorganisation intended to release the various workshops and to redistribute their activities then took place, including:
  • the widening of the track-bed beside Chingudy bay by dumping 1100000 m 3 of spoil and construction of an embankment 1150 m long carrying a road which made available a crescent-shaped area of 90000 m²
  • establishment on this site of a Novatrans workshop with a gantry crane and a storage area for motor-cars in transit operated by the STVA
  • the integral reorganisation of the lay-out of the groups of sidings, with the standard-gauge tracks, including two of 630 m for reception, in one group, and another group consisting of all the broad-gauge tracks (seven including three for reception) enclosing a new modern Transfesa workshop for changing axles, consisting of a building of 90 x 37 m, two dual-gauge tracks and a large stock of axles
  • the insertion of a 450 m mixed-gauge siding with three files of rails on the northern side, which involved widening the existing rock cutting on the approach to the station and rerouting a 63 kV high voltage line
  • the construction of two buildings, one for the freight services of the two networks close to the previously-created overflows yard, the other for the forwarding agents along the edge of the embankment
  • the opening of an underpass for trucks in order to eliminate the level crossing located beside Poste 4, which was almost continually closed to allow shunting and to let the two network's locomotives pass

These provisions contributed to improving the situation somewhat, enabling the traffic, which in 1973 reached 361,000 T for export and 834,000 T for import, to be handled. The shares of this traffic carried in Transfesa rolling stock were 29 and 67% respectively, while the rapidly increasing rail-road transhipments were at 5 and 22 %, the remainder being transhipped from SNCF wagons to RENFE wagons and vice versa.

In 1975, whereas the TEE Standard was extended on certain days to Irun, direct voitures-couchettes between Paris and Lisbon or Porto were incorporated in trains 307/304 (Paris - Madrid and Algésiras), in trains 4031/4030 (Paris - Orense in Galicia) and in trains 307/4006, with change of axles in Hendaye.

In May 1981, the introduction of an overnight Paris - Madrid train with Talgo rolling-stock required construction of a special gauge-changing workshop. Named "intercambiador", it is located between the French and Spanish tracks at the exit from the border-bridge over the Bidassoa.

At this time, because the RENFE raised its overhead line voltage from 1,5 to 3,0 kV, the catenary over the broad-gauge tracks beside platforms 101, 002 and tracks 128 - 140 of the freight yard in Hendaye was fed at 3 kV, which required the creation of a short switchable zone controlled by Poste 4.

RENFE 7212 at Irún
RENFE 7202 at Irún
Irún station in 1955, still electrified at 1,5 kV DC
© Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

After the goods installations had been upgraded, efforts were centered on the facilities for stabling passenger vehicles, which, as has been mentioned, consisted of a group of six tracks which were not sufficiently far apart, on degraded ground and with only the minimum facilities for distribution of air, of water and electricity. The objective consisted of reinforcing its capacity by replacing them with seven long tracks, one of which had a refurbished inspection pit and drive-through coach washing machine on the Bordeaux side, plus an eighth one ending at a buffer-stop. That involved the demolition of the former international goods depot and its open-air platform, which was rehoused by lengthening the forwarding agents building already accommodating Sernam and the customs and plant health authorities. These transformations were spread out over 1981 to 1984. Consequently, all SNCF shunting activity was transferred to the Bordeaux side under the control of Postes 1 and 2.

Spanish "tandem" at Hendaye
RENFE locos at Hendaye
CNC zone at Hendaye
Various broad-gauge locos of RENFE at Hendaye CNC zone at Hendaye
© Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

While the SNCF was upgrading its facilities at Hendaye, the RENFE, feeling somewhat constricted in the old station of Irun, had for its part undertaken construction of a vast secondary yard at Playa Aundi, on an undeveloped site just on the Spanish side of the bridge over the Bidassoa, including:
  • on the southern side of the SNCF track, a group of sidings reserved for the wagons to be transhipped coming from France, the corresponding facilities and a Teco workshop for the rail-rail transhipment of mobile boxes and containers (France-Spain and vice-versa)
  • on the northern side of the RENFE track, a group of four sidings with platforms for customs inspection, a group of sidings for stabling passenger coaches and a repair shop for rolling stock

In a relatively later stage, it was envisaged to alter the sorting yard tracks in Hendaye to increase their length to the maximum. This operation involved re-siting the traction sub-station and the installations for the maintenance of the material, both forming obstructions on the Bordeaux side. It was essential to replace the sub-station in any case, because its power had become insufficient (2), and especially as it was inaccessible by road. In 1986, it was re-built in a corner of the land reclaimed from the bay, with two groups of 4450 kW silicon traction rectifiers fed at 63 Kv by an underground cable from the EDF sub-station at Errondenia.

Similarly, the workshop for the maintenance of the locally-based passenger coaches, which had old equipment and was wedged between the marshalling yard and the Transfesa workshop, was transferred to a site near the new sub-station with a building containing four working stations with pits, one equipped with a set of four jacks, with six stabling sidings and an axle storage area.

While these improvements were being made, the freight traffic of the Hendaye-Irun complex was itself evolving rapidly. Thus, whereas in 1983 908000 tons had been handled with the importation with another 300000 t of citrus fruits transported in Transfesa wagons and 117000 t of fruit and vegetables (onions, potatoes, salads, tomatoes, apricots, grapes), these perishable goods which were very susceptible to road competition decreased year by year. On the other hand, traffic consisting of imported cars, containers, cereals, expanded rapidly. Moreover, export traffic, which had traditionally been weaker, eg amounting to 450000 T in 1983, was growing, influenced by the rising traffic in cars, containers, iron and steel products, agricultural machinery, and scrap for the blast furnaces of the area of Bilbao, transhipped to road.

The entry of Spain and Portugal into the Common Market in 1986 gave a spectacular impetus to the exchanges. In spite of the gradual disappearance of citrus fruits, fruit and vegetables, tonnages increased significantly thanks to the diversification of the products, with a notable rise in the North-South direction. At this moment, in order to overcome a certain number of difficulties due to the gauge difference, to the linguistic problems and those of the interface between the two networks, while trying to solve the dysfunctions, a joint organisation was created, then supplemented by the UFFI (Iberian free-freight Unit); it is a commercial organization not involved in production.

When the "Atlantic TGVs" first arrived in Hendaye with the 1990 winter service, making three return trips (four in summer), the long-distance daytime schedule, including three pairs of rapides to and from Paris, had to be recast drastically; only the Sud-Express train remained. On the other hand, the overnight service, consisting of the Puerta-del-Sol and Paris - Madrid Talgo, together with the Palombe-bleu, successor of the Ibéria-Express train and running in summer like a seasonal express train, was retained. At this stage, the traffic of the Iberian workers was decreasing because of air and road-coach competition, and the direct voitures-couchettes, just like the Car-Express train towards Spain, were gradually discontinued. On the other hand, the local traffic from and towards Bayonne was reinforced, in particular in summer under the label "Métrobasque". The growth of the international freight exchanges continues with, in 1994:
  • 1,345,000 T in the north-south direction, which is still predominant
  • 766,890 T in the south-north direction, where the loss of citrus fruits has practically been absorbed

With the end of the 1995 winter service, the Puerta-del-Sol, which duplicated the faster Talgo Francisco-de-Goya, accomplished its last voyage, and so the axle-changing hangar at Hendaye became redundant. The following year, the combined transport workshop was reinforced with a third track under gantry, while a logistic shed with an area of 2000 m 2 with two overhead travelling cranes was built for the storage of iron and steel products on the site of the odd overflows yard. In order to reach a new stage towards the installation of a single command at the border-point, a working group implemented one of the recommendations of the study of the Atlantic Pact that led in 1997 to the constitution of the Goti (operational Management of the international traffic). During the MUM at Cerbère-Port Bou, this bilateral organization has the role of managing the production of the transborder complex in quality and at lower cost, while accompanying the design phase of the routings at each change of service and aiming at an appreciable increase in the traffic.

In January 1997, a connection between the up and down tracks suitable for 90 km/h running was installed at km 231 on the Bordeaux side of the station. Controlled by an PRS unit (All-relay panel with flexible transit) integrated into Poste 1, it makes it possible to dispatch an up TGV from platform 1 beside the passenger building while a long freight occupies platform 2. This installation is part of the project for the installation of IPCS (permanent installations for bidirectional running) from Bayonne, which will be completed in due course. That year, the complex Hendaye-Irun set a new traffic record with 2,900,000 T treated, including 60 % for export. Of this total, 1,7 million is in transit via axle exchange or rail-rail transhipment, the remainder passing from rail to road or vice-versa.

Z 5393 on holidays in the south
SNCF Z 5393 at Hendaye
TGV trainset at Hendaye
SNCF TGV at Hendaye
SNCF 509251 en voyage
SNCF 09251 at Hendaye
© Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

In May 2001, the Novatrans operator, which exploited at Hendaye the combined transport workshop with the CNC, moved to the site of Bayonne-Mouguerre to increase its traffic with the Iberian countries. The project for increasing the capacity of the goods yard (the SNCF tracks), so as to give more operational flexibility, which was deferred in order to spread out the budget, is back on the agenda. By allowing the formation of long trains (eg for transporting motor-cars), it would eliminate the shunting operations needed to couple sets of wagons occupying two tracks before departure towards Bordeaux. For that, important work is necessary, notably:
  • on the Irun side, the slight shortening of track 34 to 380 m, allowing tracks 35, 36 and 37 to be lengthened to the maximum; they also end at buffer stops and are connected to Poste 4, where a PMV element (panel with miniature levers) is installed
  • On the Bordeaux side, the demolition of the small wagon-repair workshop and the transfer of its activities to the workshop for the maintenance of the material by means of enlarging its building, so that tracks 35, 36 and 37 can be made continuous, with their usable lengths increased to 655, 655 and 770 m

Moreover, the existing obsolete Poste 2 is being rebuilt with a PEI panel (station with elements of itinéraires)/PMV, integration of the DOT (operational sorting control) and creating three coach stabling sidings from 156 to 190 m long.

Work on the tracks and catenary was finished in 2003, but the new long tracks will become operational only after the new Poste 2 has been installed, during 2004.

During the past three years, the Hendaye-Irun complex traffic has stagnated or slightly regressed, partly because of the morose economic situation but also because of shortcomings in the SNCF's performance for various reasons, including a shortage of motive power, whereas, on the other hand, the RENFE has greatly improved its timekeeping, which was formerly very bad. And it suffered serious harm from the social conflict in the spring of 2004, bringing its international freight traffic back to approximately 2,500,000 T, i.e. a drop in the bucket compared with road, which is now completely saturated. It can however consider the future with optimism because of the measures taken recently to provide a considerable reserve of capacity. Of course, to fulfil such optimistic forecasts of an exponential development of the traffic benefiting rail, to the detriment of road transport, as the European Union wishes, it would be necessary to think of complementary installations, in particular the provision of an extra track on the bridge over the Bidassoa.

TGV heading for Irún
TGV ready to depart from Hendaye to Irún
"Diurno" leaving Hendaye
RENFE 252 departing from Hendaye to Irún
© Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

From the point of view of passenger activity, we can note the modernization in progress of the passenger building. It goes without saying with the introduction of the TGV the role of Hendaye as a maintenance base for conventional coaches was reduced, passing from 34 vehicles the summer of the 1980s, to 79 in 2003, including 6 dedicated to long-distance traffic and 11 to the TER Aquitane. As for the traffic coming from Spain, Hendaye station is the terminus of a set of long-distance international trains which was never very extensive, now consisting of:
  • overnight, an express train from Barcelona via Saragossa, Pampeluna and one from Madrid, plus the Sud-Express train from Lisbon
  • during daytime, two Talgos from Barcelona, one IC and one Talgo from Madrid, an express train from Salamanca and another from Coruña and Vigo

In due course their rolling-stock returns empty to Irun, where is stabled before reloading and returning in the opposite direction. This station is also the origin-terminus of two evening trains towards Vittoria and Miranda de Ebro, the overnight Sol-de-Levante, with through coaches to Alicante, Bilboa and Saragossa, and a regular-interval suburban service (TER towards Saint-Sebastien/Donostia).

SNCF 63500 traversing Bidassoa river
SNCF class 63500 passing Bidassoa river
RENFE 333-001 traversing the Bidassoa
RENFE 333-001 passing Bidassoa river
© Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

The essential activity of the Hendaye-Irun complex concerns freight traffic. For this reason, the station at Hendaye receives each day a score of trains, either local mixed freight (Hourcade, Saint-Pierre-des-Corps) or specialized, such as class ME 120 transporting
  • mobile boxes from Villeneuve for Madrid Abronigal, transhipped onto RENFE wagons at the Teco workshop
  • Volkswagen motor-car parts (Combiverkehr) for Pampeluna, also passing via the above mentioned workshop
  • Renault motor-car parts in Méga Combi waggons for the firm's factory at Venta de Baños, with change of axles at the Transfesa workshop

The other traffic in the North-South direction consists in particular of:
  • mobile boxes and containers received by CNC and continuing by road
  • iron and steel products (coils, beams, pipes, from Pont-au-Moisson) transhipped onto local broad-gauge coaches in Irun or by the forwarding agents Decoëx and Algeposa, on branch lines from the exit of this station and providing logistics services
  • new motor-cars from the French company Peugeot; Volkswagen and Audi cars arriving from Wolfsburg or Heilbronn on Transfesa wagons
  • cereals from Beauce and Central France, carried in Transfesa wagons
  • agricultural machinery from Poland, scrap metal and wood to be taken again by trucks in Hendaye towards the provinces of Navarre, Basque Country, Aragon, Castille, Galicia or Asturia

In the south-north direction, the dominant products are incontestably the new cars built in Spain, and spare parts for them being taken between factories.

The cars are treated by the branch Cobatrans (ex-STVA), which has a group of six tracks, three broad-gauge and three standard-gauge. The trains received there carry Renaults (models Twingo, CLIO) from Venta de Baños, Citroens from Vigo, Volkswagen Polos from Pampeluna, Opels from Griesen, either on Transfesa wagons or RENFE wagons; these are transhipped at the site and reforwarded to various French stations or to that close to Bayonne-Tarnos which provides back-up storage.

RENFE 269-224 at Irún-Ventas
RENFE "Virgen de la Soledad"
Regional service leaving Irún
RENFE "tandem" at Irún-Ventas
Various southbound RENFE services passing Irún-Ventas
© Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

As in the southbound direction, shipments of parts for cars follow the same path via Transfesa for Renault, via Teco for Volkswagen.

The mobile boxes and containers handled by CNC arrive by trucks from Spain and are transferred onto wagons, whereas the flow from Madrid to Villeneuve passes to Teco for transfer between wagons. The cargos of paper and finished metallurgical products brought to Hendaye by road and forwarded by rail should also be mentioned. During the period after last summer's heat wave, the station ensured an unusual specific traffic of four whole trains of alfalfa coming by the road from the Spanish Basque Country and destined for Rodez and Saint-Chély-en Apcher. A score of trains are dispatched northbound and there is a Hendaye - Bayonne-Mouguerre shuttle transporting CNC wagons from this site to be incorporated in the direct trains towards Mannheim, Cologne, Schaerbeek, Lille, Candiolo (Italy) and vice-versa.

SNCB 4112 on transit at Hendaye
SNCB 4112 on transit
new trainset at Henday freight workshop
new trainset delivered by CAF
Romanian locos at Irún
Romanian locos at Irún
© Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

So far as the transhipment to local wagons in Irun, in Playa Aundi (Teco) and the two rail-connected forwarding agents is concerned, transfers from the marshalling yard at Hendaye are carried out by SNCF type BB 463500 diesels. As for the trains of cars and similar traffic to and from Spain, RENFE electric locomotives of types 269 and 289, and type 319 diesels arrive and set out again from the broad-gauge sidings at Hendaye.

Euskotrain at Irún
Euskotrain at Irún
Euskotrain metric-gauge trainsets 211 and 212 in local services at Irún
© Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy

To complete this panorama of the Hendaye-Irun complex, it is necessary for us only to say a word about a secondary railway with electrified metre-gauge track whose recent modernization offers a fine service to all the Cantabrian coast west of Irun. Operation of this train, sometimes called "El Topo", is entrusted today to the Euskotren company, with a service interval of 30 min from its terminus in Hendaye towards Saint-Sébastien/Donostia.
taken from Rail Passion, March 2004, article by Bernard Collardey
article provided by Wesley van Drongelen; translation by Alan Reekie

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