I have no experience with recommended train station arrival times for security checks and queuing for trains in Spain. I understand that there are security checks, but haven't the foggiest idea re: what is expected. I am used to the 90 minute pre-flight airport arrival times in the US, but not sure this is a good model to follow. Does anyone have experience with this? Is 30 minutes prior to boarding sufficient for arrival? 60 minutes? I will have tickets in hand prior to arriving at train stations, so I hope that shortens the time. Thanks for your input.
30 minutes should be more than ample. The security basically consists of an x ray of the suitcases you are carrying. Then walk on to the train.
In Madrid at Atocha, you will see the boarding information as to the level and gate number. You will show your tickets as you enter, then to the x ray (down stairs, or eleveator/escalator each gate) walk to the x ray area, then right on to your car. Your ticket will have the car number and seat number on it. Your luggage goes with you and is stored as you enter the car. There are restrooms on each car as well.
30 minutes is fine, and if you have previously come into the same station, you'll have an idea of the station layout. Boarding Control closes 2 minutes before the AVE train departs. When our tour group of 26 all boarded the AVE at Barcelona, I'm sure we were early, but also experienced no delays.
There are security checks for the fast trains, not the regular trains. 30 minutes is more than enough, in fact I think they open the security line about 25 minutes prior to your departure time and won't let you go through to the platforms before that.
I did 30 with no problems multiple times. I'm excessively early...one of those 2+ hours at the airport people and felt comfortable with 30.