The same jingle as in France.
And a female voice announcing at the microphone: “Today begins the liberalization of high speed.
Have a nice trip !
This Friday morning, at 10:15 am at Atocha station in Madrid, SNCF inaugurated its first train on the Spanish market.
From Monday, when the state of emergency in Spain ends, this Ouigo TGV will provide five low-cost daily round trips between the capital Madrid and the Catalan capital Barcelona, via Zaragoza and Tarragona.
The French train takes two and a half hours to cover the 620 km, just like Renfe, the Spanish railway company it competes with.
But… it doesn't cost the same.
Marketed only on the Internet, "tickets are sold from 9 euros for adults and 5 euros for children", boasts Hélène Valenzuela, director of Ouigo Spain, who claims to want "to popularize high speed for the whole family: adults , children and pets ”.
High speed "50% cheaper"
Because it is the first time that the Spaniards have tasted the low-cost train.
As well as to duplex trains.
"With Ouigo, high speed will be on average 50% cheaper", welcomes Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, in front of the Spanish Secretary of State for Transport, Pedro Saura.
Fair play, the latter recalls that Spain is at the head of the longest European high-speed rail network.
“We have invested 65 billion euros in it over the past fifteen years.
It would have been a waste not to make it a competitive mode of transportation.
The commercial opening of the line will take place on May 10, with five daily round trips between the Spanish capital and Barcelona.
Crossed in Barcelona station, Dan, 25, confirms.
“Two weeks ago, I booked tickets to go to a tournament in July,” explains the professional tennis player.
For 30 euros I was able to have the round trip and extra luggage for my snowshoes.
With the Renfe, it's more like 150 euros round trip.
It's really good news to be able to take a fast and cheap train.
Read alsoSNCF: 5 million train tickets at 39 euros maximum for this summer
To achieve this, with an investment of 600 million euros, SNCF applies in Spain the same revenues as in France.
On the model of the tricolor Ouigo launched in 2013, it will use duplex TGV trainsets from its existing and redeveloped fleet.
"We use the same Ouigo brand, the same distribution and the same organization," explains Alain Krakovitch, General Manager of Voyages SNCF.
The principle of low-cost is to keep the trains running as much as possible, with commercial timetables that adapt to maintenance, optimized, and not the other way around.
An Ouigo thus makes twice as many rotations as a TGV Inoui.
"The Spaniards are very attached to the bar"
The Spanish Ouigo is not, however, a copy and paste of its French cousin. Due to the heat, the turquoise livery gave way to white. The seats, still blue and pink, are less tight and the dining car, removed in the French Ouigo to allow the installation of 90 additional seats, has been preserved. "The Spaniards are very attached to the bar," says the manager with a smile. This tapas bar named “Ouibar” will come into operation as soon as the health restrictions are lifted. No first class identified. But when booking, the customer can still choose, for an additional fee, an XL seat. An entertainment platform, “Ouifun”, as well as “ouifi” are also offered.
Unlike the French Ouigo trains, the Spanish version will have a bar, which will serve tapas in particular.
Do these Ouigo with Spanish sauce have a chance to arrive in France?
"We are going to learn from this experience", answers, in understatement, Alain Krakovitch.
The reverse is also true.
If the SNCF won the race for rail liberalization by inaugurating the first train outside its borders, the latter has only just begun.
From June 23, Renfe will retaliate by launching its own low-cost train on this same Madrid-Barcelona link.
But above all, European competitors are also eyeing the most profitable TGV lines of the SNCF. After postponing its project due to the Covid, the Italian Thello, a subsidiary of Trenitalia, which already offers night trains between Paris and Venice and operates the Marseille-Nice-Milan service, could embark on Paris-Lyon at the autumn. Renfe is also in the running for Lyon-Marseille.