Spain ushers in privatisation of long-distance rail services

The Spanish government has given private companies the opportunity to compete with state-owned rail operator Renfe for passengers on long-distance rail services between some of the country’s major cities.

Minister for Public Works, Ana Pastor, has said that a tender will be launched in the coming weeks, giving private operators chance to run passenger services on the high-speed and conventional network linking Madrid with the Castile-La Mancha, Valencia and Murcia regions for a seven-year period.

Once the seven-year license has expired, the route will be opened up to free competition.

The Spanish government believe the move will “improve the quality of public transport service and the mobility of citizens”.

Pastor said: “We will organise the entry of private operators thus ensuring a wider range and better offer of services, whilst guaranteeing the continuity of the services offered by Renfe and the appropriate levels of quality control and safety by the public authorities.”

The new private operator will be able to organise its own timetable and pricing structure. It will also be able to make use of Renfe’s new rolling stock leasing arm, Renfe Sociedad de Alquiler.

British operator National Express has already shown its interest in the Spanish market, with subsidiary Alsa recently being awarded a license to run services on Spain’s high-speed network.