A new front is opening in the battle for Europe's rail passengers as Spain's Renfe opened its first high-speed route into the heart of France yesterday, with another route scheduled to start July 28.
The first route runs from Barcelona to Lyon, with half a dozen stops in each country along the way. The second route will connect Madrid, Barcelona and Marseille, veering off the route to Lyon at Nimes to head to the Mediterranean port city. Passengers can also buy tickets between stations in France.
France's SNCF is already active in Spain, with trains run by its budget Ouigo subsidiary running routes that compete with Renfe on a number of domestic routes. Renfe has created its own budget version, called Avlo, to compete with the low-cost operators. Under European rules, countries must allow competing service on their national networks, and competition has been heating up in a number of places, generally resulting in lower fares.