Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

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Spain’s Renfe Sets July Date for New High-Speed Trains to France

12 months ago

Travelers will have a new option between Barcelona and Lyon, and Madrid and Marseille come July. That’s when Spain’s rail operator, Renfe, will launch new through high-speed train service on both routes, and reconnecting the country’s high-speed rail networks after an eight month hiatus.

Renfe will launch AVE high-speed train service from Barcelona to Lyon on July 13, and Madrid to Marseille on July 28. Both services will initially operate four-days-a-week — Friday through Monday — before expanding to daily in September and October, respectively. Travel times, however, will not exactly be speedy: Barcelona-Lyon will take just under five hours, and Madrid-Marseille just over eight hours.

Renfe begins cross-border high-speed AVE train service to France in July. (Renfe)

Travelers can fly between Barcelona and Lyon on either EasyJet or Vueling in an hour-and-a-half, and between Madrid and Marseille on either Iberia or Ryanair in an hour-and-forty-five minutes, according to Cirium Diio schedules.

However, an increased concern in climate issues in Europe could work to Renfe’s benefit. Air France executives have said that they doubt domestic France travel demand will ever return to 2019 levels as many travelers, including lucrative corporates, switch to trains for more trips where rail options are competitve.

Renfe’s new cross-border service is not the first on either the Barcelona-Lyon or Madrid-Marseille routes. France’s SNCF operated high-speed TGV trains in partnership with Renfe on both routes until December.

A map of Renfe’s new AVE high-speed train service to France. (Renfe)

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Strikes to Disrupt French Rail and Air Traffic on Tuesday

1 year ago

Train and air services throughout France will be disrupted on Tuesday by a nationwide strike against pension reforms, French authorities said on Sunday.  

French rail operator SNCF said that it would operate only about half of its usual number of high-speed, domestic trains while one out of four trains on the Eurostar line to London would not operate. France’s civil aviation authority also said it expected delays and disruptions to hit airports although it would activate minimum services guarantees. The agency asked airlines to reduce flights out of Paris’ Orly Airport by 20 percent on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s nationwide strike is the third since the French government unveiled plans in January to raise the pension age by two years to 64. More than 1.2 million people took part in protests around France during the second round of strikes on January 31.

A high-speed train in France
Strikes are expected to disrupt French trains on Tuesday, February 7

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France and Germany Promise Direct Paris-Berlin Trains From 2024

1 year ago

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday unveiled plans for a high-speed train route connecting their respective capitals, Paris and Berlin, beginning next year.

“As a tangible initiative illustrating our will to push forward on decarbonizing our economies and our societies, as well as our cross-border links, we support the deployment of the high-speed train route between Paris and Berlin, as well as the night train liaison, both announced for 2024,” they said in a joint statement. They did not provide additional details, for example which country’s rail operator — France’s SNCF or Germany’s Deutsche Bahn — would operate the planned service.

TGV and ICE trains at Munich station
A French TGV and German ICE train at the Munich station. (Deutsche Bahn)

A direct Paris-Berlin high-speed rail service would eliminate the need for travelers to change trains in either Cologne or Frankfurt. However, as rail blogger Alon Levy noted, without additional infrastructure improvements the new direct service will likely take about the 8 hours in travel, or about the same as the current connecting services.

Flights between Paris and Berlin take roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes, according to Diio by Cirium schedules.

Deutsche Bahn and SNCF operate 24 trains between France and Germany daily, according to the latter’s website. Trains directly connect Paris and other French cities with Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart and other German cities.

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Spain’s Renfe to Launch New Through Train Service to France by Summer

1 year ago

Spain’s rail operator Renfe has begun testing two new cross-border high-speed rail routes to France that could begin carrying passengers by summer.

Renfe tested through AVE train service from Madrid Atocha to Marseille on Tuesday, and from Barcelona Sants to Lyon on Monday. Once driver training and familiarization is complete, the operator aims to begin initial revenue service of three weekly trains on each route by summer. Renfe plans to increase the number of trains on both routes to twice daily — or 28 high-speed trains a day between France and Spain — under its second phase service plan.

A Renfe train at the station in Lyon, France.
A Renfe train at the station in Lyon after a test run from Barcelona. (Renfe)

Renfe did not disclose the expected duration of both routes. However, the Madrid-Marseille service would make 13 intermediate stops, including in Barcelona; and the Barcelona-Lyon route would make seven stops, including in Perpignan.

Expanding cross-border rail links is a goal of European Union authorities as they aim to cut the bloc’s carbon emissions. While many individual countries have invested in their own high-speed rail networks, connections between the networks are limited. Only about 7 percent of cross-border trips in Europe are made by rail, according to the European Commission’s DG Move department.

The rail link between France and Spain first opened in 2013. Renfe and France’s SNCF previously cooperated on cross-border rail service between Barcelona and both Lyon and Marseille but terminated their partnership in December. The SNCF operated Barcelona-Lyon trains made the trip in roughly 5 hours. Renfe’s new through trains will replace some of the services previously operated under the partnership.

SNCF operates three daily high-speed TGV trains between Barcelona Sants and Paris Gare de Lyon.