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There’s a long and distinguished conservative tradition of hating on passenger rail projects, mainly because of the massive federal expenses they tend to incur.

MADRID -- It's 8 a.m. at the Puerto de Atocha train station in central Madrid. Business travelers armed with cellphones and laptops, and pleasure travelers toting cameras and carry-on bags, make their way through security to board the high-speed trains that connect Spain's capital to cities across the nation.

The sprawling station, which dates to the 1890s, serves not only the AVE, or Alta Velocidad Espanola high-speed trains, but also the city's metro subway and commuter trains. It sits amid a bustling district of offices, hotels, restaurants, museums and other businesses.

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