The liberalization of Spanish high speed begins and continues to surpass its own milestones. The passenger railway market, in which Renfe, Ouigo and Iryo operate today, recorded record numbers of passengers between April and June, to the point of breaking all the statistics recorded until then. In total, 8.32 million people used the fast trains, exceeding the figure for the previous year by 33%. Iryo is largely to blame for these data, whose landing in the Andalusia corridor has increased the number of travelers by 28%. They are also growing substantially on the Madrid-Albacete-Alicante route, in which the three companies compete.
The National Markets and Competition Commission has published its new quarterly report on the railway sector, corresponding to the months of April, May and June, which highlights the substantial growth in passengers in all corridors compared to last year. Specifically, the Madrid-Valencia corridor is growing very strongly, where passengers have almost doubled (+86%) to a total of 1.3 million people traveling point to point. Holy Week and the different holidays that Madrid residents were able to enjoy promoted these services.
New services generate demand.
Key to this growth is the completion of Iryo’s expansion plan and the expansion of Ouigo routes. The Italian-Spanish operator began providing service on March 31 on the route that connects Madrid with Andalusia, breaking the monopoly held until now by Renfe, and from the first day it recorded high occupancy figures on its trains. Days later, their services to Alicante began, a movement that was also carried out by the French operator.
Iryo has managed, in its first three months of operation, to get 20% of the passengers that Renfe previously had in Andalusia onto its red trains. This has allowed the total number of passengers to increase by 30.3% for the Madrid-Seville corridor and another 25.8% in the Madrid-Málaga/Granada corridor. The Nasrid city, the third tourist destination in the country, still has no competition, for now.
The route between Madrid and Barcelona – with intermediate stops in Zaragoza and Tarragona – continues to lead the Spanish high speed route, registering 3.6 million passengers, 36% more year-on-year. It is also the route where the trains are most full, with almost 95% occupancy. The trains to Andalusia fill eight out of every ten seats, while those to Valencia and Alicante leave 30% of their seats empty.
Ticket prices drop between 16 and 27 euros
The ‘train war’ continues to leave Renfe as the winner on all routes, given its evident competitive advantage, but the cake is increasingly divided. On the Barcelona LAV, the public company keeps 55% of the passengers (adding Avlo services), compared to 24% for Iryo and 21% for Ouigo. In Valencia it has already lost more than half of the users, transporting 49% of the total; while in Alicante it remains at 76%.
The CNMC highlights that in the corridors where the three companies are already competing, average prices have been reduced to around 0.07-0.08 euros per passenger-km, compared to the range of 0.11-0.13 that existed before liberalization occurred. Their calculations estimate that the average price of a ticket between Madrid and Barcelona has been reduced by 25 euros, now costing an average of between 40 and 47 euros. Seats for the Madrid-Valencia route are 16 euros cheaper, with prices between 22 and 26 euros. Madrid-Alicante costs a range of 22-32 euros while the trains to Seville and Malaga, where Renfe and Iryo go, cost a minimum of 55 euros.