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Spain’s Renfe set to expand train services to France by the summer

Spain's state-operated rail network operator Renfe will begin high-speed routes to Marseille and Lyon by the summer and Paris by the end of the year.

Spain's Renfe set to expand train services to France by the summer
Photo: JOEL SAGET/AFP

Spain’s state-owned rail network Renfe is to begin running high-speed AVE services between Madrid and Marseille and Barcelona and Lyon before the summer, according to the Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez.

Renfe trains are also due to run to Paris before the end of the year. 

The Spanish press has recently been reporting that Renfe was testing routes to France, but it seems an agreement was made at the Franco-Spanish summit held between the two countries in Barcelona last week. 

Though the headlines were taken by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and French President Emmanuel Macron and the signing of a so-called ‘friendship treaty’, Spain’s Transport Minister used the opportunity to talk with her French counterparts and solidify a timetable for the French AVE expansion, as well as discussing the role of France’s public rail operator, SNCF, in the new routes.

READ ALSO: Macron, Sánchez to ink Franco-Spanish friendship treaty

It is thought this will be done through Ouigo, which is a subsidiary of the French network that runs services in Spain.

Renfe has been attempting to expand into neighbouring countries for some years now but has repeatedly come up against administrative barriers in having its trains approved for use abroad.

However, at the summit held in Barcelona, the French assured Spain’s Transport Ministry that Spanish trains will be able to operate on French railways. “Spain will play a decisive role in the railway liberalisation of Europe,” Raquel Sánchez said after the promise of France’s commitment to the expansion.

Tests on routes between Madrid and Marseille and Barcelona and Lyon have already begun, and Renfe has also authorised a first cohort of drivers, with more staff being added progressively until they have the necessary training and qualifications.

High-speed trains will initially run between Madrid and Marseille and between Barcelona and Lyon on alternate days, with six weekly circulations on each route.

As the services ramp up, they will then run twice a day, with Renfe aiming for 28 services a week between the two routes.

A high-speed service to Paris is lined up to run before the end of the year.

Renfe has not specified how long the journeys will take, but it is known that the Madrid-Marseille service will have 13 intermediate stops, including Barcelona, and that the Barcelona-Lyon route has seven stops, including Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpellier, Nimes and Valence.

Member comments

  1. This is not the real story. RENFE ran these trains – Madrid/Marseille and Barcelona/Lyon – until December 2022. I know this because I used them and very good they were too. Then they were abruptly withdrawn. So the ‘new’ services referred to here are nothing of the kind, they’re just the old ones restored. ‘Testing’ and driver recruitment is entirely unnecessary, it’s all been done. At the moment the high-speed line from Perpignan to Figueres has a grand total of two passenger trains each way (all French).

    So the real story is that there is a woefully under-used piece of expensive publicly-funded railway which could be so much better. If anyone knows why this is I’d love to hear.

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TRAVEL NEWS

What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

Several French unions have filed strike notices for February, with some aiming to target to busy February holiday period - here's what you can expect.

What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

France is in the grip of a major confrontation between unions and the government over plans to reform the pension system.

So far, the main actions have been concentrated on one-day strikes that are supported by all eight of the union federations, however an increasing number of unions are filing notices for renewable or unlimited strikes, with some targeting the February holidays.

The French minister of tourism, Olivia Gregoire, called on unions to respect the “sacred period” of school holidays (which in France run from February 4th to March 6th, depending on which zone you are in).

Meanwhile, Philippe Martinez, the head of the hardline CGT union, told RTL that if the government remains stubborn then “there is a possibility of days of action during the school vacations”.

As a result, it is likely that further notices will be filed.  The Local will update this story with the latest – but here’s what we know so far.

January actions

Tuesday, January 31st – this is the next one-day mass strike, which will likely see severe disruption on many services, particularly public transport – full details here.

February actions

Trains – two rail unions – the hardline Sud-Rail and CGT-Cheminots – have filed a renewable strike notice for “mid-February” in addition to a two-day strike which is to take place on Tuesday, February 7th, and Wednesday, and 8th. 

READ MORE: Calendar: The French pension strike dates to remember

Ski resorts – two of the largest unions representing French ski lift operators and seasonal workers, FO (Force ouvrière) and the CGT, have filed “unlimited” strike notices starting on January 31st – the same day that unions across other sectors have called for another ‘mass strike’.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the strike will continue throughout February, but unions say they want to put pressure on the government to discuss both pensions and changes to benefits for seasonal workers, which particularly affect ski industry employees.

The CGT union in particular has threatened further actions during the Ski World Championships, held in Courchevel from February 6th to February 19th. Strikes in ski resorts usually primarily affect the operation of ski lifts. You can read more here.

Oil refinery workers – refinery workers have threatened to strike for a period of 72 hours beginning on February 6th. 

The national union coordinator for French oil giant, TotalEnergies, Eric Sellini, told AFP that these actions would result in “lower throughput” and “the stoppage of shipments.”

The most concrete effect of this is likely to be shortages of petrol and diesel at some filling stations if the blockades are successful in stopping supplies leaving the refineries.

Power cuts – the hardline CGT have also threatened more “direct action” with employees of the State electricity sector threatening to cut the power to certain towns. This isn’t a scheduled action (or indeed a legal one, the government has promised to prosecute workers who do this) but short targeted power cuts could continue into February.

UK border – finally, if you are travelling to or from the UK, be aware that a UK Border Force strike is planned for February 1st and 2nd, which is likely to increase waiting times at the border.

We will update this story as more details are released, and you can also find all the latest in our strike section HERE.

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