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Atocha transport hub to become Madrid's "new Barajas"

Total cost of project expected to reach 500 million euros

The Atocha expansion will turn the international rail station into the "new Barajas" of Madrid, Public Works Minister José Blanco said on Sunday.

Blanco took part in the inauguration ceremony of the first phase of the hub's remodeling, in which the central government has so far invested 171.4 million euros. The total commitment is 500 million euros. Also present were Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre and Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardón.

Platforms in the new terminal area will be officially opened to the public on December 19.

The government expects that by 2025 Atocha will receive 36 million passengers, more than double the current figure.

"The government has set a goal to transform this station into a new Barajas for Madrid," he said, in reference to the city's airport. "We have improved the railway complex and the quality of services to users."

The station, which has become the main hub for a number of high-speed routes, will be the first in Spain to separate arrival trains from departures.

The minister also pointed out that there are two more phases that need to be completed, one of which will feature a high-speed tunnel between Atocha and Chamartín, which will become operational in 2012.