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Spain set to start privatizing train routes

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Spain set to start privatizing train routes
Photo: Dariusz Sieczkowski
11:32 CEST+02:00
Spain wil began the process of opening up its hugely popular but debt-ridden train system to competition with the first non-government routes opening up as early as 2015, Spanish media are reporting.

For around €1 million ($1.35 million) a year, a shiny, high-speed Spanish Ave train could be yours.

That's the price being touted by Spanish newspaper El Mundo in a piece on the liberalization of Spain's railway network.

After 73 years, Spain's government railway operator Renfe is finally set to open the network up to private competition.

The first routes to be opened up are those from Madrid to the eastern coastal cities of Valencia and Alicante, with Murcia to follow, El Mundo says. It could all happen as early as 2015, the daily claims.

To make the process easier for new operators, they will be able to rent out seven AVE trains.    

Spain's privatization of its railway network is a process being followed closely by unions — Renfe employs 14,000 staff — train manufacturers and countries like Germany and France where the rail networks are still in public hands.

Spain has already taken the first step towards privatization when, in 2013, Renfe divided up its business into four divisions (passengers, freight, rolling stock and maintenance) to staunch losses and make possible future sales easier.

Renfe also dropped prices on its Ave tickets in 2013, including offering multi-trip discounts, to boost passenger numbers and make the company more attractive to outsiders.

Passenger numbers climbed 25 percent in 2013 in the wake of the move, and more people are now travelling on the country's trains than by planes.

But Renfe is saddled with an estimated debt of $5 billion, a fact which makes privatization hugely attractive to crisis-hit Spain.

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