Leading infrastructure and transport operator, Acciona, has told regulators that it has teamed up with Ilsa, owners of Iberia regional franchisee, Air Nostrum, to be the first private operators to compete with state-owned Renfe when Spain's rail market opens up to competition in 2020.
Ilsa already has permission to operate a high-speed AVE-style service from Madrid to Montpellier, in southern France, as cross-border competition is already permitted.
The planned service will also stop at Zaragoza and Barcelona and so compete directly with Renfe's successful services between Catalonia and the Spanish capital.
However the service has been delayed as Renfe didn't have any AVE trains available to rent out. For Acciona, its deal with Ilsa fits with its strategy of investing in environmentally sustainable sectors.
State-owned Renfe carries some 22 million people a year on its AVE high-speed lines and demand is increasing as the network grows.