Renfe’s monopoly will be definitively broken on March 15. That will be the day that Ouigo, the “low cost” high-speed service of the French state company SNCF, will start operating in Spain. And it will do so with the promise of offering train tickets “for the price of a menu”, with discounts of up to 50%.
This was announced yesterday by the general director of Ouigo Spain, Hélène Valenzuela, and the general director of SNCF travel, Alain Krakovitch, in a ceremony held at the Atocha station that served as a presentation for Ouigo. “The intention of SNCF is that the train is the preferred means of transport for the Spanish. We have a long-term commitment to the country, ”said Valenzuela.
The company, which was awarded lot C in Adif’s tender to liberalize the high-speed market, plans to create 1,300 direct and indirect jobs in Spain. At first it will only be present on the Madrid-Barcelona route, but its intention is to reach the southern corridor (Madrid-Malaga-Seville) and the eastern corridor (Madrid-Valencia-Alicante) “as soon as possible”.
Ouigo will operate with 14 Alstom trains adapted to the Spanish network. The locomotives will have two floors and will have capacity for 509 passengers, in addition to on-board service and a cafeteria, an equipment that Renfe has limited due to the impact of the pandemic. SNCF is also training specialized freight train drivers to drive these trains.
The French state company lands in Spain with an aggressive campaign commercial. For starters, you have prepared a special offer to promote your launch. Tomorrow at six in the afternoon it will open its website, and the first 10,000 people who register will be able to enjoy AVE tickets for one euro. Following this special promotion, ticket sales will begin in a few weeks. And it will be “very simple”, with the option to buy tickets in less than three minutes through the web.
With this declaration of intent, the French company yesterday launched a dart at its future competitor. Renfe’s digital platform has caused a good number of breakdowns in recent years, which has led the Government to completely remodel its website.
But this was not the only implicit mention of Renfe by SNCF. Krakovitch assured yesterday that his intention is not to steal passengers from the operator, but to “bring more people to the train” and valued his rival’s plans to compete in the French market.
No news from Avlo
The commercial policy of the French company clashes with this approach, and makes it clear that next year there will be a bloody battle in rail transport. Renfe’s intention was to counter the arrival of competition in the railway market with the launch of a low-cost service, Avlo, which was to be prepared in principle during Easter this year.
Covid-19 thwarted these planes and it forced the operator to suspend the launch of the new train, which will be characterized by having a high occupancy. Company sources assure that Renfe is working on a new date, but they are not yet able to clarify when the launch will take place. Initially, the operator wanted to “roll” this product for a few months to see how it worked before the arrival of the competition. A possibility that is now made impossible by SNCF’s ambitious commercial proposal.