With its 2,000 kilometers, Spain has the longest network for high-speed rail connections in Europe. Madrid is the central hub for long-distance rail travel on the Iberian peninsula. The high-speed links from the north ended in Madrid at the Charmartín rail terminus and those from the south at the Puerta de Atocha. To continue their journey, long-distance travelers had to change to local trains. To widen this bottleneck and thus modernize the entire network, the plan was for these two stations to be connected underground.
An EPB Shield was used to drive the new 6.9-kilometer long AVE rail tunnel. The experienced miners rapidly and reliably tunnelled under a number of metro lines under the city center with top performances of up to just under 60 meters a day and up to 280 meters a week. The breakthrough for the project was achieved at the Puerta de Atocha on February 11, 2011 after just a ten-month construction period.