In a first for Spain and for Europe, Spain's high-speed rail system now has three competing discount operators on one of the world's largest high-speed systems.
Iryo, a new company 45% owned by the Italian government-owned Trenitalia, has begun its first route, Madrid to Valencia, and will start passenger service Nov. 25 on the key Madrid-Barcelona route with 16 daily round trips. Ticket prices will vary, but Iryo says the average will be €18 one-way. More routes will open in March.
Spain's home-grown Renfe has its own lower-price service, Avlo, in addition to its regular Renfe services, and France's Ouigo, a service of national rail operator SNCF operates a number of lines in Spain and with connections to France.
Rail competition is a relatively new thing in Europe, where at least since World War II the model has largely been a single monolithic operator in each country. The EU has pushed regulations requiring countries to open their rails to competition, and it has been growing; Germany has an extensive network of discount trains operated by Flix, and Trenitalia faces competition from Italo.
The Spanish government has welcomed the advent of competition; Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has pushed for lower fares to increase greater use of Spain's 4,000 kilometers of high-speed lines, second only to China in length.