Renfe targets 80% growth in Central Europe with Leo Express partnership
After acquiring half of Leo Express shares two years ago, Spanish operator Renfe has now fleshed out a strategy with its new Czech partner, setting a target for 80% growth of activities. Renfe president Raül Blanco and Leo Express CEO Peter Köhler met in Prague to finalise a joint expansion strategy for their activities in Central Europe. The agreement was reached after a three-day visit during which Blanco also met with the Czech government and other railway operators.
In 2021, Spanish state-owned operator Renfe acquired 50 per cent of Leo Express, a private carrier providing rail and bus passenger transport in Central Europe. The Czech Republic-based company began operating in 2012. It has since expanded to neighbouring countries such as Slovakia and Poland, and also has operational experience in Germany. It currently serves more than 100 cities in 6 countries.
Renfe and Leo Express have agreed to jointly explore new business opportunities in both commercial services and public service tenders, with the objective of growing their activity by up to 80 per cent “in the short term”. They did not yet announce any new planned destinations or services, however.
In its internationalsation strategy, Renfe says it seeks to expand its activity in the European Union as an operator, advisor and consultant. The collaboration with Leo Express constitutes a long-term strategic project for Renfe: it gives access to the markets in which Leo Express already has a license to operate: Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as the local experience, equipment and references that Renfe needs to advance in this market.
Renfe’s global presence
Next to taking steps in Central Europe, Renfe also runs cross-border high-speed trains to France. The Spanish operator earlier expressed interesting to also run trains across the channel to London. The company is also involved in the Rail Baltica project, which will connect Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to the European railway network in standard gauge. As a “shadow operator”, Renfe is part of a consortium with Spanish engineering company Ineco and the German DB Engineering & Consulting, which will support Rail Baltica during the construction phase and will be responsible for defining the operation and maintenance requirements.
Moreover, it is the majority shareholder in the Spanish-Saudi consortium Al Shoula, where 12 Spanish companies and 2 Saudi companies have designed and built the first high-speed line in the Middle East, the Haramain between Mecca and Medina. Across the Atlantic, Renfe is a strategic partner of the company Texas Central, developing a bullet train between Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth. In Mexico, Renfe takes part in a consortium with Ineco and DB Engineering & Consulting, providing service for three years to the development of the “Maya Train”, where Renfe will be the shadow operator of the contracting entity.