SNCF starts operating between Barcelona and Paris without Renfe

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The French railway operator SNCF begins this Sunday to provide high-speed services between Barcelona and Paris alone, after the dissolution of Elipsos, the joint venture with Renfe, through which the two companies operated since 2013 said international line, in addition to those of Lyon and Marseille.

Yesterday, was the last day of circulation under the Renfe-SNCF brand in Cooperation, to give way from today, on the Barcelona-Paris route, to the TGV InOui of the French company, while the lines to Marseille and Lyon remain, at least temporarily, without service, waiting for the Spanish public company to resume it on its own.

SNCF will continue to operate the Barcelona-Paris route, which will officially open this Monday, with its Alstom Euroduplex train (EPA:ALSO) (as until now in collaboration with Renfe), while expanding the frequencies from one round trip a day to two, to which, in addition, a third will be added in summer 2023.

For its part, Renfe should obtain by the end of the year the certificates and authorizations to operate alone on the Barcelona-Lyon and Madrid-Marseille cross-border lines, for which the French railway infrastructure manager SNCF Réseau (a subsidiary of SNCF) has already attributed the paths, or traffic rights, requested.

The rolling stock that Renfe is going to use has to be approved by the Public Railway Safety Establishment (EPSF), which must also issue a safety certificate for its staff working in France.

This body plans to give its opinion next week and “the signs are positive”, according to its director general, Luc Cébulski, although it will be the European Railway Agency that has the last word and, if there are no surprises, the process could be finished “at the end of December”.

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To start operating, once the necessary certificates have been obtained, the Spanish railway company, according to the manager, would have to carry out a series of “blank routes” (circulation with empty trains) for the training of train drivers.

Renfe foresees that the training itineraries for the operational staff will last between 4 and 5 months, after which they will be able to start commercial exploitation on both routes.


The two operators have ended this Sunday their collaboration of almost ten years, after SNCF decided last February not to go ahead with its alliance with Renfe, with which it competes since May 2021 in Spain, through its low-cost high-speed service Ouigo, between Madrid and Barcelona and, for two months, also to Valencia.

Renfe is interested in operating in the French high-speed market on lines such as Paris-Lyon, one of the most popular in the country, although, so far, the French authorities have never homologated their trains despite being from a French manufacturer (also from Alstom).

While two new operators already circulate in Spain (in addition to SNCF with Ouigo, Iryo, participated by Air Nostrum, Globalvía and Trenitalia), France, since the opening of high-speed lines to competition at the end of 2020, has given entry to only one: Trenitalia (a year ago), which offers five daily round trips between Paris and Lyon and two to Italy.

Renfe not only focuses on the neighboring country’s high-speed network, but also on its regional lines, where calls for tenders for commercial launches scheduled between 2024 and 2040 are multiplying.

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