Madrid Rail Travel Boost As Low Cost & Euro Sleeper Services Beckon

Madrid rail travellers will soon be enjoying a new era in train travel from the capital with a number of new services launching.

Today marked the first commercial service of the new low cost high speed train service provided by French-run Ouigo, which has started running the 620 kilometre Madrid – Barcelona route.

The service was inaugurated last month and is the first competitor to the Spanish state operator RENFE trains on the country´s AVE high speed network.

Spain’s 3,200 km high speed rail network is the largest in Europe but has one of the lowest usage. 

Ouigo has been heavily promoted with Madrid-Barcelona fares starting at €9 which are significantly lower than the AVE train service run by RENFE.

The French plans include opening up other routes including Zaragoza, Malaga, Alicante and Valencia.

The French SNCF operator of Ouigo ( a play on the English “we go”) has invested €600 million in the Spanish operation despite reporting heavy losses in France over the last year due to the freeze on national and international travel.

Not to be outdone RENFE is launched its own low-cost service this week, Avlo, which was due to start in 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic. It too offers services to Barcelona and will be rolling out across the AVE network this year.

Meanwhile Italian rail operator, Trenitalia and Spanish airline Air Nostrum, are looking to launch Ilsa, a third low cost train service on the AVE network from 2022.

In addition a new French start up – Midnight Trains, is looking to connect the French capital with overnight “hotels on rails” services to 12 other European destinations, including Madrid from 2024.

The founders say the aim is to compete with state-run sleepers and short-haul flights.
Both the French and Spanish governments have announced plans to ban short haul flights where a rail alternative exists.Such a move could make the sector highly attractive with a new base of customers who either prefer or have to, travel by rail.




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