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SNCF low-cost rail service Ouigo launches in Spain
11 May 2021 @ 09:25

FRENCH low-cost express rail service Ouigo launched in Spain today – Monday, May 10 – the first day ever when national train company RENFE has ever had to deal with competition.

The National Spanish Rail Network (Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Españoles, or RENFE) has held a monopoly ever since it was created 80 years ago, but the service was set to be opened up to private firms from December 2020, effectively turning it into a competitive business environment for the first time.

Although it did not happen straight away, it was on the cards almost immediately as Ouigo, part of the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français, or French National Rail Society), announced it was planning to branch out into Spain.

Already, it is seeking to undercut RENFE on price, which means the latter will have to work harder to retain customers – and could see train travel nationwide becoming much cheaper or of better quality – albeit RENFE said last week it was looking forward to the new challenge and, in almost exact words, 'bring it on'.

To start with, Ouigo will be covering Spain's most heavily frequented connection by any mode of transport: The Madrid-Barcelona stretch.

This is also the route covered by Iberia's so-called 'air bridge' and by RENFE's low-cost version of its express AVE service, the AVLO.

Spain's busiest commuter route, the Barcelona-Madrid and Madrid-Barcelona line will not be the only service offered by Ouigo, or AVLO, but it is at the moment.

Ouigo's prices for the journey between the country's two largest cities start from €9 one way per head, although they can reach up to €79 depending upon factors such as peak or off-peak times and how far in advance tickets are purchased.

Ouigo trains, like the AVLO, also stop at Tarragona (Catalunya) and Zaragoza (Aragón) en route.


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