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.
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.