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The Ouigo Madrid Barcelona high-speed line kicks off the battle for rail in Spain




Ouigo inaugurated its first train between Barcelona and Madrid (photo: Ouigo Spain)
Ouigo inaugurated its first train between Barcelona and Madrid (photo: Ouigo Spain)
SPAIN / FRANCE. Renfe, the Spanish railway operator, is losing its monopoly on its domestic market with the inauguration of the first Ouigo Madrid-Barcelona train on Friday 7 May 2021. This inaugural VIP journey represents the completion of the opening up of the rail sector to competition in the European Union.

Commercial service between the Spanish capital and the Catalan capital will begin on Monday 10 May 2021. The new train will also serve the cities of Zaragoza and Tarragona. There will be five daily round trips.
With fares starting at €9 one way (free for under 3s and €5 for 4 to 13s), the service will be seasonal with a last departure on 11 December 2021.

Announced on 22 September 2020, the first connections of this high-speed train were to start on 15 March 2021. However, the health crisis has postponed the arrival of the French on the Iberian market. Ouigo Spain, a subsidiary of Sncf Voyageurs, began selling tickets at the beginning of December 2020.

Renfe's response

The Barcelona-Madrid line will face strong competition (photo: Ouigo Spain)
The Barcelona-Madrid line will face strong competition (photo: Ouigo Spain)
To counter this arrival, Renfe is working on launching its own low-cost trains. The company is also planning to compete with SNCF at home with two high-speed lines between Lyon and the cities of Montpellier and Marseille, then, in a second phase, between Lyon and Paris.

The Spanish operator is participating in tenders for the French regions of Grand Est (Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine) and Hauts de France (Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy) and is studying links between France and Germany.

In 2022, the rail battle will have a new competitor with Ilsa. The 45% subsidiary of the Italian operator Trenitalia and 55% of the Spanish airline Air Nostrum plans to offer trains on the Madrid-Barcelona route and to Valencia and Andalusia.

 

Eric Apim


Friday, May 7th 2021



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