I’d first read about Spain’s conversion to high-speed rail in Tom Zoellner’s Train. Having neglected its rail system for decades, the revaluation of Spain’s currency upon entering the European Union in 1986, according to Zoellner, made the country flush with cash. Spain’s prime minister wanted to spend it on “a Japanese-style bullet train.” The first line opened in 1992 between Madrid and Seville, which quite coincidentally I’m sure, just happened to be the prime minister’s hometown. The line between Madrid and Barcelona opened only after overcoming fierce opposition that construction would endanger the delicate genius of Sagrada Familia. Unfortunately, it didn’t.