The liberalization of the AVE starts in the middle of the debate over the possible implementation of tolls on Spanish highways. France’s Ouigo, SNCF’s low-cost brand,
yesterday opened its line between Madrid and Barcelona with an inaugural trip that was supported by the Ministry of Transport, Adif and the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC).
The journey served as an advance for the start of commercial operations of the French company, which will begin next Monday. The intention of the company is to attract close to a million passengers in 2021 with this new service, according to the brand’s commercial marketing director, Federico Pareja, explains to this newspaper.
To do this, the company expects the restrictions to “soften” after the end of the state of alarm tomorrow. However, the goal of one million passengers will be difficult to meet, since the company needs an occupancy close to 90% and will start on Monday with a rate closer to 50%.
Pareja also launched an appeal to Adif, which he demanded to lower the canons (rates) paid by railway operators for using their infrastructures. The manager is now negotiating a regulatory change with the Ministry of Transport so that it is the public company that establishes these rates and not the budgets. «The lower the fees, the more margin we will have to reduce Ouigo tickets», Defends Pareja, who explains that these rates represent 50% of the total costs for the French operator.
Despite this, Ouigo promises to maintain the base rate of nine euros per ticket, although he also acknowledges that this price «increases when there are periods of high demand. In addition, the company intends to use all the capacity awarded to it by Adif for the Madrid-Barcelona route (five frequencies per direction and day) and begin operations on the Madrid-Valencia route during the last quarter of the year.
Arrival at AVE to Seville will take a little longer, because that route has a security and signaling system incompatible with the Ouigo trains. “We are modifying our trains to be compatible with this system, but it will take time,” they explain from the company.
The Government supported yesterday the landing of SNCF in Spain. During the inaugural trip, the Secretary of State for Transport, Pedro Saura, assured that liberalization “is a very important reform in Spain that is already beginning to bear fruit.” Saura explained that with the opening of the market “we all win” and recalled that Spain has invested 65,000 million in the AVE: “It would be a waste if this investment did not have adequate returns.”