Red Iryo high-speed train

Spanish Iryo takes off with inaugural journey

Iryo high-speed train in Spain Iryo

The 21st of November was a major milestone for the Spanish high-speed rail competition, as the inaugural train of operator Iryo took off. There are only a few days left before 25 November, when the first commercial services between Madrid and Barcelona will commence, and tickets for Iryo’s high-speed trains can be already purchased. 

Iryo’s maiden voyage along the Madrid – Valencia corridor officially positions the company within the Spanish and international rail markets, with the brand new Frecciarossa 1000 finally making its debut in Spain for representatives of institutions, the economical sector and journalists.

The consortium of Iryo, composed by Air Nostrum, Trenitalia and Globalvia, will operate package B won back in 2019 for the next 10 years. Three packages were divided based on frequency, and three operators can operate trains on all three high-speed lines that were opened to competition. In addition to Madrid and Barcelona, Iryo’s “red arrow” trains will reach Sevilla, Malaga, Alicante and Valencia. In total, Iryo will operates 30 percent of the high-speed rail services on these corridors, and will compete with the former incumbent Renfe and with the Spanish branch of SNCF, Ouigo España.

The company plans to attract around 8 million passengers a year and to create 2600 work places, with nearly one billion euros already invested in the project. This is in line with the international expansion strategy of its main stakeholder Trenitalia, that forecasts foreign revenue to grow from the 1.8 billions of 2019, to 5 billion euros in 2031. The services will be carried out by the 20 newly built ETR1000 train sets, of which nine already arrived in Spain during this year. These trains are similar to the ones used by Trenitalia in Italy, and are licensed to operate in France, Spain and Italy.

Spanish high-speed rail liberalisation

Especially satisfied is Carlos Bertomeu, president of Iryo, called it a ”New cutting-edge and sustainable high-speed standard with a premium service thanks to the latest generation trains”. The gradual openings for commercial services will bring the Frecciarossa 1000 to Valencia on the 16th of December, and later in 2023, to Sevilla/Malaga and Alicante respectively on the 31st of March and 2nd of June.

ALLRAIL, the alliance of new entrants in the railway sector, calls companies like Iryo the “future of passenger rail”, advocating there needs to be competition between different operators on all high-speed rail routes in Europe. Secretary General Nick Brooks is on the inaugural service of the operator, saying: “It is great to see how commercially driven Open Access services – such as Iryo – are making long-distance rail more attractive and winning travellers away from less sustainable transport modes, namely airlines and cars.”

Once all services will be in place, Renfe, Ouigo and Iryo will finally complete the Spanish high-speed rail liberalisation process. The Spanish case demands special attention, as the combination of network structure and competition characteristics make it one of a kind in the rail world. Therefore excitement is high for the actors involved, and the result of the three different operators on the tracks have the potential to provide important lessons for many other countries in Europe.

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Author: Filippo Borgogno

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