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Ouigo trains at Madrid's Atocha railway station. AFP
Date revealed for third low-cost high-speed train operator Ouigo to join race for Malaga-Madrid passengers

Date revealed for third low-cost high-speed train operator Ouigo to join race for Malaga-Madrid passengers

The French operator's duplex trains can accommodate the highest number of passengers among the operators in Spain and it is hoped that the increased competition will lead to a further drop in fares on the route

Ignacio Lillo

Malaga

Monday, 15 May 2023, 16:54

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Private high-speed train operator Ouigo is expected to start serving Malaga and the rest of Andalucía in the second half of next year. The French “low-cost” service will increase the number of operators on the Madrid-Malaga route and it is hoped the extra competition will lead to lower fares for rail passengers.

Iryo was the first competition for state operator Renfe when it started running its trains between the two cities, with two in each direction. That will increase to three shortly and reach five in summer. In June, Avlo, Renfe's low-cost subsidiary, will slash fares, with prices starting from seven euros, although with just one daily departure each way and it will slower stopping at all intermediate stations on the line.

The third and last to offer its services will be Ouigo, planning to sell single tickets from only nine euros and offering the largest capacity trains in the Spanish market; Alstom's Euroduplex, with 509 seats.

The Euroduplex trains are already equipped with the LZB signalling and safety system, which is the one installed 30 years ago on Spain’s first high-speed line, which connected Madrid with Seville and Cordoba. But national rail infrastructure company ADIF is currently working to replace it with ERTMS, which is the one used in the rest of the high-speed lines in Spain and the rest of Europe, but these works will not be finished until 2026.

Ouigo has adapted at least four of its trains, according to technical sources. But the company also confirmed that the LZB system has already been fitted on the trains that will run on the Andalucian route. However, to complete the approval process the company will need to perform many hours of testing on the track, which will do mainly at night during the maintenance 'window'. Currently, the static tests are being completed, and in the next few days the dynamic tests will begin, that is, actually circulating on the tracks with the drivers will have to make successive accelerations, braking, stops and starts.

When will they enter into service?

Ouigo Spain general manager Hélène Valenzuela has indicated that the service would arrive to the Costa del Sol and also Seville between June and December next year. This was revealed when the subsidiary of the French state company SNCF launched its Madrid-Alicante route recently, the third of the rail corridors in Spain on which it operates.

It is expected that there will be two daily return services between Atocha in Madrid and María Zambrano in Malaga city, which will mean a total of about 28,000 seats a week on the high-speed route, offered by all the operators, with up to 20 departures a day in each direction.

Ouigo's arrival on the scene is highly anticipated, and not only because it will mean that a significant rail corridor will be created between the Spanish capital and the capital Costa del Sol. But also because, where it has entered the race for passengers, the French brand has offered tough competition and substantially lowered the average price of tickets for the other three competitors: AVE and Avlo, from Renfe; and Iryo.

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