March 4, 2021

Trains, the big problem of Renfe's competitors in the AVE

To form a railway company, the essential thing is to have trains. But, paradoxically, having the necessary means to transport passengers by rail and thus be able to compete with Renfe has become one of the great challenges for companies that aspire to do so.

The criteria for the liberalization of the AVE from December of 2020 fixed by Adif establish that the railway companies are those that contribute as minimum traction. That is, trains, which makes the rolling stock fundamental. The problem is that, if you do not have it, it is neither quick nor easy to get it. And many of those interested in competing with Renfe do not have convoys at this time.

In the sector it is assumed that Arriva, the subsidiary of the German company Deutsche Bahn, does have trains with which to operate in Spain, although the firm has not publicly positioned itself on the process. But the French SNCF, for example, which has shown interest in the Spanish AVE, has recognized that it has no surplus material available to bring to the other side of the Pyrenees for adaptation and homologation. In your case, and given that SNCF does not rent material, this circumstance would lead you to buy new units or to forge an alliance with a firm that has it. To order new trains, both the French company and the rest of the companies have almost no deadline if they want to start operating in December of next year. On average it takes two years to deliver new units. Its cost, around 20 million euros per convoy, does not make things easy either.

For companies that need to rent trains, the simplest option would be to look at Renfe, whose rolling stock is already approved to circulate in Spain. The operator is obliged to give access to part of its surplus units, although the conditions for doing so are pending approval. But the reality is that the operator does not have convoys to rent "as long as there are no deliveries of the trains that have been published," sources from the state company explain.

Renfe awarded Talgo the manufacture of 15 trains in November 2016, a request that was extended to another 15 in April 2017. In March of this same year it has also approved the tender for the acquisition of 40 locomotives that will allow the creation of the new high speed 107 series. The company will take advantage of the transformation of its TrenHotel Serie 7 rolling stock, awarded in 2016, to set up high-speed convoys.

The public operator has already manifested its shortage after the Ilsa-Acciona consortium obtained authorization of Competition to operate the Madrid-Montpellier international line in September 2018. Then, Renfe assured that it did not have the S-100 locomotives with capacity for 347 passengers that Ilsa and Acciona intended to lease to the public company. Acciona is, precisely, one of the operators interested in the liberalization of the AVE that does not have rolling stock. In the sector has also been speculated that it could bring trains from Italy that, in any case, should be homologated to Spanish standards.

In the sector it is assured that the Italian public operator, Trenitalia, could be a good option to form an alliance if in the end it is bidding for the capacity that is awarded. The company could bring to Spain the Zefiro, the Bombardier model with which it operates the Rome-Milan high-speed line. Trenitalia could be one of those foreign companies around which, according to sources familiar with the process, some of the consortiums would be forming precisely because of their availability of rolling stock. The president of Adif, Isabel Pardo de Vera, has assured that there will be alliances.

(tagsToTranslate) roberto l. vargas

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