French rail operator SNCF inaugurated a low-cost, high-speed rail service in Spain linking Madrid and second-city Barcelona on Friday.
The first Ouigo train left Madrid’s Atocha station for Barcelona at 10:15 am (0815 GMT) with invited guests on board.
Photo: Pierre Philippe Marcou/AFP
The commercial service started on Monday May 10th, the day after the pandemic state of emergency ended in Spain and people can move more freely between regions, with five daily return journeys between the two cities.
SNCF plans to launch similar services between Madrid and the eastern cities of Valencia and Alicante on the Mediterranean coast by the end of the year, and to the southern Andalusia region by 2022-23.
It will initially use four recently refurbished double-decker trains in Spain but plans to operate 14 trains in the country by 2023.
SNCF has invested €600 million ($722 million) in the Spanish operation despite posting huge losses in France because of the pandemic.
— 🎃spooky Auro🎃 (@AuroGnzlz) May 10, 2021
Spanish state rail operator Renfe, which until recently operated a monopoly in Spain, planned to launch its own low-cost, high-speed rail service dubbed Avlo last year to compete with Ouigo but the start of the service was delayed due to the pandemic. As the tweet exchange seen below suggests, both Renfe and Ouigo are up for the challenge.
Ouigo’s launch in Spain thus marks the start of the liberalisation of the country’s railway service.
— OUIGO España (@OUIGO_Es) May 7, 2021
¡Ya está aquí! El primer tren de alta velocidad low cost de España ya te lleva de Madrid a Barcelona y vv desde sólo 9€. En Viajar en Tren lo estamos probando y sólo podemos dar 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 a @OUIGO_Es. pic.twitter.com/az6JK7vV0f
— Viajar en Tren (@viajarentren) May 10, 2021
Avlo is the cheaper cousin of Renfe’s popular high-speed service called AVE — which is Spanish for bird. It is scheduled to start on June 23rd with a service linking Madrid and Barcelona.
Italian rail operator Trenitalia and Spanish airline Air nostrum are due to launch a third budget bullet train service in Spain called Ilsa during the second half of 2022.
Spain’s high-speed rail network extends for 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles), making it the second-longest in the world after China’s but it is known to be under-utilised.