Five Ouigo will cover a 100% foreign route for the first time on March 15: Madrid-Barcelona, in both directions. SNCF presented on Tuesday its first high-speed line, neither French nor cross-border. After the Madrid-Barcelona, will arrive the Madrid-Valencia and the Madrid-Seville, with similar frequencies (five round trips per day) and schedules still unknown. And, each time, a main argument: the price.
Tickets will be sold on average 50% cheaper than those offered by the national company for the same route, says Hélène Valenzuela, general manager of Ouigo Spain, and Alain Krakovitch, general manager of Voyages SNCF. The round trip in second with the Spanish operator usually costs between 150 and 200 euros. Renfe had announced for April 2020 the launch of a low-cost service, called Avlo, but postponed it sine die after the imposition of a state of emergency in mid-March. SNCF also delayed its first Spanish service, initially scheduled for December 14, 2020.
The Spanish Oui Go share the brand of low-cost French trains, as well as certain arrangements, such as the two decks. They will be distinguished by the presence of a bar car, planned neither in France nor in Renfe’s Avlo. One way to stand out from the competition? “SNCF invented low-cost rail,” recalls Alain Krakovitch. With Avlo, it was rather Renfe who sought to position itself in relation to us. “
The managers of the French company insist on another characteristic of their offer: the ease of booking. This is precisely one of the criteria, along with the high prices, on which Renfe is regularly criticized in Spain. “In the two years that we have been preparing for our arrival, we have commissioned a lot of studies,” admits Hélène Valenzuela.
SNCF is already well established abroad, where it generates a third of its turnover (35 billion euros in 2019) and its results. This high-speed first responds to a call for tenders from Adif, the network manager, willing to increase frequencies on its rail by 60%. Ilsa, a consortium between Trenitalia and Spain’s Air nostrum, has won another batch, but has not yet communicated the date of its launch. “Spain is the second high-speed network in the world, behind China and ahead of France,” recalls Alain Krakovitch. It was very important for us to be present. It’s also good to be the first, to occupy the field. “
130 people will be hired to cover the three lines, 98% of whom are on permanent contracts. Fourteen trains will run in Spain, for an investment of 600 million euros, including 350 million of material assets. Commercial management makes a big difference with France: “At home, we must ensure equalization between profitable and unprofitable lines. In Spain, we hope that all our lines will be profitable. The project is also a way of preparing for the arrival of competition in France, in particular Renfe, which wishes to operate in the South-East from December 2021.