On 10th May, within minutes of each other, two trains departed from Madrid and Barcelona, respectively. This way, the liberalisation of passenger railway transport through high speed began in Spain. The two units are part of the Euroduplex fleet of the low-cost subsidiary of the French public company SNCF, called Ouigo.
This company offers its services in the Northwest high speed corridor with five daily frequencies between Madrid and Barcelona (ten in total), with stops, in each direction, in Zaragoza and Tarragona, it aims to make railway high speed “popular”, since as its Managing Director for Spain, Helene Valenzuela points out, “we want everyone to be able to travel through this country via high speed trains”.
The Ouigo brand, already operated in various corridors in France, offers a service similar to that which can be found in traditional high speed trains, through the double-decker model of the French manufacturer Alstom, with the only difference of the interior configuration that admits in this way more passengers, up to a total of 509 per convoy. It offers a choice of seats of different sizes, including the XXL for added comfort. Furthermore, unlike other low- cost trains, it has a café on board.
Likewise, the initial price is 9 euros each way, although the price of the ticket increases depending on the day of travel and the services required on the journey. It is similar to the offer that low-cost airlines have already established years ago. If travellers wish to carry more than one suitcase, they must pay a supplement for it, the same applies for entertainment and Wi-Fi. Children have a special price and there is no loyalty card or discount for large families.
To start with, and as announced by Valenzuela, the company will focus on the corridor between Madrid and Barcelona, although it is studying the possibility of operating towards Levante before the end of this year and towards Andalusia in 2022.
Ilsa and Renfe: Long awaited debut
The next step has been the debut of Renfe Operadora. On 23rd June began the journeys of Avlo, the new low-cost high speed service. These are units of the Serie112, which has started its connection between Madrid and Barcelona with 4 frequencies in each direction. Its initial configuration is planned to carry up to 438 passengers, with prices starting at 7 euros each way.
This way, the company will offer 40 daily trains (20 each way) and 16,000 seats to travel between both cities either by either the traditional AVE or by Avlo.
In addition, this year it is expected the debut of ILSA, a consortium made up of Air Nostrum and the Italian public company Treintalia. The start date is yet to be set, although it is proposed to start operations from 2022 according to the company. In this case it plans to focus directly on the three high speed corridors: Northwest, Levante, and Andalusia.
Avlo is the low-cost proposal of Renfe Operadora. ILSA, also expected to engage in commercial operation in Spain.