Spain’s Renfe high-speed trains soon to enter the French market

Spanish operator Renfe is set to begin high-speed train services on the Paris-Lyon line in 2024, just before the Olympic Games.

Even if the French rail network is open to competition, few operators have yet come to compete with SNCF on its own territory, apart from the notable example of Trenitalia between Paris and Lyon. But that should quickly change with the arrival of Spain’s Renfe on the same line.

The Paris-Lyon route is the one that attracts the most operators, as it is Europe’s busiest in terms of traffic, and therefore the one where it is easiest to find customers and be profitable. Today, SNCF offers 22 daily trains and Trenitalia 4.

But before that, the Spanish operator will launch two routes between Lyon and Barcelona and Marseille and Madrid in summer 2023.

Renfe goes on the offensive against SNCF

In the past, Renfe had already been serving certain French cities under a partnership with SNCF since 2013. The trains used were partly derivatives of the French TGV, and partly Renfe high-speed trains built on the basis of the TGV Atlantique. Both were built by Alstom.

This partnership proved unprofitable, and relations between Renfe and SNCF became increasingly strained, particularly after the latter launched a top-of-the-range Ouigo between Madrid and Barcelona, to the point where the alliance was dissolved in December 2022.

So it’s no longer as a partner but as a competitor to the incumbent French operator that the Spanish want to return to the French market.

What service with Renfe?

Renfe offers two travel classes: Comfort (2-1 configuration) and Standard (2-2).
In terms of catering, depending on the type of ticket, customers will have :

– A cafeteria with hot and cold food service for everyone

– A boxed menu is served at the seat for an additional charge with an elije standard or elije confort ticket.

– A full menu served at your seat included in the ticket price with a premium ticket

An offer that seems more comparable to that of Trenitalia than the supposedly improved service provided by SNCF in Business Première on the Paris-Lyon route.

Bottom line

Renfe will link Barcelona to Lyon and Madrid to Marseille in the summer of 2023, and Paris to Lyon in the spring of 2024, with a service that is likely to be superior to that of SNCF.

What about you? Have you ever travelled with a competitor to SNCF on the French network? What did you think of it? Do you want to speed up the opening of the market to competition or, on the contrary, prevent these operators from competing with SNCF?

Image : Renfe high-speed train by Philip Lange via Shutterstock.

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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