posted on 25th Nov 2022 09:00
With open access company Iryo having roots in the València district, it was logical that the inaugural passenger-carrying service to be operated, a special for invited guests on 21 November 2022, should be from Madrid to València, and not to Barcelona, which together with Zaragoza will be the destinations for the first regular passenger-carrying services, from 25 November onwards.
Iryo is owned by OFL (Operador Ferroviario de Levante), which in turn is owned by València-based Air Nostrum, the concerns having a 31 % shareholding in the train service operator. With Trenitalia having a 45 % stake, the on-board ambience is distinctly stylish and of Italian influence.
At present Iryo has 12 Class 109 Frecciarossa 1000 (Zefiro V300) EMUs available for service, based at Santa Catalina depot, in the southern suburbs of Madrid. By late November nine were still being used for final testing, while three were available for use. In all 20 trains were ordered from Alstom, the latter then acquiring Bombardier, together with the latter's involvement in the ETR 1000 fleets in service and being built for use in Italy, France and Spain. Hitachi Rail then announced that it had acquired the intellectual property and commercial activities related to these trains, together with their maintenance contracts.
For the inaugural train, 109 008 was used on the eastbound journey, while the westbound run was made using 109 008 (to Madrid-Chamartín) and either 011 or 012 (which departed slightly later to Madrid-Puerta de Atocha). At present it is impossible for 1,435 mm gauge trains to serve both Atocha and Chamartín, until the new platforms on the line passing through the Jardín Botánico tunnel between the two stations are completed. Regular commercial services between Madrid, Cuenca and València are scheduled to start on 16 December 2022.
The special train on the 21st departed from Chamartín at 10.30, and reached València Joaquín Sorolla at 12.13, three minutes later than scheduled. Weather conditions were far from ideal, with a deep depression (Denise) sweeping across Spain from the Atlantic, resutling in strong crosswinds on the higher parts of the route over the Serranía de Cuenca, together with frequent showers.
On board were Iryo and Air Nostrum President Carlos Bertomeu, MiTMA Minister Raquel Sánchez, the President of the Generalitat Valenciana, Ximo Puig, Trenitalia's CEO, Luigi Corradi, and Globalvia CEO, Javier Pérez Fortea. Representatives from the Italian Embassy and the Italian Chamber of Commerce were also among the guests, and there was a strong media representation, although there were quite a few empty seats.
After a slow descent of the Jardín Botánico tunnel, followed by a moderately-paced run to the junction between the Levante and Andalucían high speed lines at Torrejón de Velasco, 109 008 accelerated to speeds approaching 300 km/h, the on-board movement caused by the crosswinds being, at times, quite noticeable - otherwise the ride was exceptionally smooth. During the journey guests were treated to a light mid-morning snack, consisting of either salmon or charcuterie, salad and quail eggs, with wine, followed by coffee.
At València, where weather conditions, although slightly overcast, were distinctly warmer and drier than in Madrid, Raquel Sánchez confirmed that the liberalization of high speed train services in Spain had been a success (109 008 came to rest adjacent to a Madrid-bound Ouigo TGV which was being boarded by a substantial number of passengers), and urged other EU member countries to develop the market for high speed train travel still further: "We are proud to have created non-discriminatory and transparent conditions for all concerns interested in participating in train service liberalization, without any being granted special favours, Iryo, alongside Ouigo and Renfe, are competing under equal conditions on the Spanish rail network, within the liberalization framework created by our country. That means that Spain is the first country in Europe to have three major companies providing high speed train services."
Luigi Corradi stated that "Iryo is the result of both Italian and Spanish experience in high speed rail travel and passenger care. It is a proud moment for me and for Trenitalia to see the Frecciarossa 1000 about to start running between Spain's majhor cities."
Iryo's involvement in the Spanigh high speed rail market represents an investment of 800 million EUR. Eventually the company will be operating 30 % of all high speed services in Spain, and is anticipating moving around 8 million passengers annually. If the quality of travel and on-board services is as good as it was on 21 November, this will indeed be a notable step forward for high speed rail travel in Europe.
Departure from València was at 15.00, with arrival at Chamartín slightly later than the scheduled 16.40, on account of the extremely strong headwind and frequent showers. Folowing the inauguration of commercial services to Zaragoza and Barcelona on the 25th, and to Cuenca and València on 16 December 2055, Iryo's next step will be the introduction of services to Córdoba, Málaga and Sevilla on 31 March 2023, followed by those to Albacete and Alacant on 2 June 2023. Alstom and Hitachi are now pursuing the authorisation of the Zefiro V300 train in Germany, with the long term aim of offering a suite of high speed international services.