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TRAINS

This is what Spain’s new low-cost (and brightly coloured) trains will look like

It won't be hard to spot the jazzy new trains zipping around the country from Easter 2020.

This is what Spain's new low-cost (and brightly coloured) trains will look like
Photo: RENFE/Cinco Días

Spanish national rail service RENFE has decided to give its new rage of low-cost, high-speed AVE trains a very eye-catching coat of paint. 

Photos of the first models being tested (published by El País on Wednesday) show how the carriages will have a striking purple paint job, with a silver strip running along the top and the doors being given a bright, Easyjet-style orange finish.

The striking purple pigment is in fact RENFE’s official logo colour, although current high-speed AVE trains only sport a splash of this, having primarily a more sober white finish overall.

It remains to be seen whether the carriages’ interiors will be quite as loud (in colour that is) as the exteriors.

RENFE announced back in February 2018 that it was planning to launch this low-cost alternative to its fleet as a means of getting more Spaniards off the roads and onto the train tracks.

The initial route of the trains (dubbed EVAs rather than AVEs) will be from Madrid to Barcelona, with five trains going in each direction every day.

Spain’s public rail provider hopes to kick-start the new services during next year’s Semana Santa (Easter) holidays.

Authorities are aiming to transport over a million passengers in the first year, Spain's former minister of Publics Works Íñigo de la Serna announced back in 2018. 

Ticket prices will be at least 25 percent cheaper than the current service between Madrid and Barcelona and would operate not from Barcelona-Sants station in the centre of the Catalan capital but from a new hub in El Prat de Llobregat, a satellite town near the airport.

The current AVE service hurtles the 621km (386 miles) between Madrid and Barcelona in under three hours reaching a speed above 310 km/h.

The route was inaugurated in 2008 and competes with flights between the two cities  but tickets cost an average of €98 each way, althougher cheaper deals are available to savvy travellers who book in advance.

The new budget service is designed to attract a younger generation who generally make the journey by coach, explained the minister.

Spain by train: Everything you need to know about rail travel


 

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TRAVEL

MAP: Return of night trains across Europe comes a step closer

The return of night trains across Europe came a step closer this week when four European governments - Switzerland, France, Austria and Germany - signed a cooperation pact and laid out a timetable for the return of services.

MAP: Return of night trains across Europe comes a step closer
Photo: AFP/SNCF

The four countries signed a cooperation pact on Tuesday to revive a Paris-Vienna service within a year.

The deal between Austria's OBB, France's SNCF, Germany's Deutsche Bahn and Switzerland's CFF, signed during a meeting of EU transport ministers, aims to have the service running by December 2021.

Tuesday's agreement was aimed at resolving problems that have held back relaunching night services and ensure better commercial cooperation.

While for some, night trains hark back to an earlier time, these officials see them as a key element for the future as Europe strives to reduce its carbon emissions.

“It is clear to me that night trains are the ecological alternative to short-haul flights and car journeys,” said Austrian Transport Minister Leonore Gewessler.

“It's great cooperation of which I am proud and a strong signal for the green transport demanded by many,” said Alain Krakovitch, General Director of French state rail operator SNCF.

Deutsche Bahn CEO Richard Lutz told POLITICO that it was “a huge economic challenge” to run night trains up until around 2015. “But in recent years, we’ve seen an increase in demand, particularly from young people,” he said.

Supporters believe night trains will offer a sustainable alternative to some late night and early morning flights. Those behind the plan claim the amount of CO2 produced per passenger is ten times less on a night train from Paris to Vienna than on a flight on the same route.

An Amsterdam-Cologne-Zurich service is also on track for December 2021 as well as a Zurich-Barcelona train in December 2024.

Austria's OBB has been working for several years to bring back night train services, which withered away as cheap air travel boomed in Europe.

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The firm hopes to see the number of international night trains grow from 19 to 26 within four years, with passenger numbers climbing from 1.8 to 3 million per year.

Much work still needs to be done and complications lie ahead before the services become operational.

Operators will have to build suitable carriages which will be expensive and harmonise many of technical specificities, particularly around safety which are different across the rail networks.

What's clear is that rail operators working together will be key.

“Cooperation, in favour of the development of night trains in France and in Europe, makes it possible to pool the strengths of all four partners,” read a joint press release.

But “public financial support will undoubtedly be essential to support the economic model of these night services”.

This financial support has not been laid out to date.

In June a separate plan was laid out for a European ultra-rapid train network that would see Berlin linked to Paris in just four hours.

The planned timetable is as follows:

December 2021

Zurich – Amsterdam

Paris – Vienna

December 2022

Zurich – Rome

December 2023

Berlin – Paris

Berlin – Brussels

December 2024

Zurich – Barcelona

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