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Cross-Border Turmoil In France And Spain

posted on 27th Dec 2022 18:23

On 11 December 2022, the international high speed train services between Barcelona and Lyon and Madrid, Barcelona and Marseille were withdrawn. This follows the dismembering in December 2021 of the Renfe/SNCF Elipsos cooperation which was responsible for these services since 2011.   

The reasons behind this are rather complicated. Joint operation of international services by Renfe and SNCF have come to an end. SNCF justifies the termination of the collaboration with its Spanish counterpart on account of the loss-making nature of such services - apart from that between Barcelona and Paris. 

The other services were generating losses amounting to around 10 million EUR annually. This was announced during a presentation TGV run between Paris and Barcelona, in which participated Caroline Chabrol, SNCF's European Projects Director, Sylvie Humbert, SNCF's Marketing and Distribution European Director, Pauline Zampeze, the Director of TGV Inoui for Europe, Anne-Laure Carre-Alfonso, the SNCF TGV-Intercités European Director of Marketing, Jean-Marc Cruciani, TGV Inoui's Services Director, and Olivier Brissot, the latter concern's customer care manager. 

Since 11 December 2022, SNCF has operated the Paris to Barcelona service on its own, with two train pairs daily - a third is to be added during the coming summer. That means around 2 000 seats are available daily, to increase to 3 000 in summer 2023. 

The relationship between Renfe and SNCF has also changed recently. Since the start of Ouigo services linking Madrid with Barcelona and València, the operators have become competitors in the high speed rail travel market - it is difficult for them to continue as partners. SNCF only has six TGVs that can be used on the Paris to Barcelona service - the rest of the fleet do not comply with the authorisation requirements stipulated by Adif. 

According to Renfe, the authorisation procedures for its high speed trains are to be used on services to Lyon and Marseille. The first new Class 106 Avril train, 106.009, arrived in France for testing (1.5 kV DC, TVM 430 and KVB ATPs) on 4 October and test running started in early December, in Bretagne. Driver training must also take place. Altogether, these procedures could take a further four or five months. But Renfe states that once these have been completed, it is ready to take on the services to Lyon and Marseille. It is not known whether the delays in testing the Class 106s are the fault of SNCF Réseau or Renfe - or both. 

In Catalunya, a petition has been started by users of these two withdrawn services, and by the time they ceased running had been signed by more than 2 500 people, many of them French expatriates working in the autonomous region. All the more curiously, Renfe already has high speed trains authorised for use in France - the ageing Class 100 fleet.

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