Monday, 2 October 2023
Competition among different train operators - state and private - on the Malaga-Madrid high-speed rail route has resulted in ticket prices as low as nine euros.
The price war means travelling on the high-speed services between the two cities now costs less than half of what it did a year ago. Although nine-euro tickets are difficult to obtain as it is necessary to buy them well in advance, the average fares have plummeted compared to what they were a year ago.
The battle started after state operator Renfe's monopoly of the line was broken last Easter when privately-owned Iryo started operating its trains along the route and offered passengers cheaper fares. Shortly afterwards, Renfe's low-cost high-speed Avlo service was rolled out.
In 2022, at around this time of the year it was difficult to find a seat on the high-speed train for less than 100 euros each way, but now a search on the sales platforms of the two operators (Renfe groups AVE and Avlo on the same website) shows the most common fares now range from 25 to 50 euros, compared to 100 euros last year.
A search for a journey on 17 October - the day Renfe is going to extend its services with one more AVE train in each direction - reveals fares of just 21 euros each way. Fares with Avlostart at about 25 euros. The rest of the day you can find seats, both for the outward and return journeys, for 34, 42 or 51 euros, depending on the timetable and demand.
On the same day (17 October), Iryo, the first private high-speed operator in the southern corridor of Spain offers four departures in each direction, with the cheapest seats from 23 to 27 euros each way.
The price reduction is due to the increase in train frequency and, therefore, the number of seats available. The number of daily departures has also reached an all-time high this year.
Although the number of daily departures varies depending on the day and the schedules of both operators, in October there will be days with up to 18 trains in each direction. This is the case on Fridays, when Renfe runs 14 trains (split between AVE and Avlo to travel from the Spanish capital to the Costa del Sol, to which another four Iryo trains are added.
On the rest of the days, the average is 17 trains, although at some points it will drop to 16 due to the lower demand expected from the private operator.
Competition is set to get even more fierce with the arrival of low-cost operator Ouigo, scheduled for the second half of 2024. It is expected that there will be two daily return services between Atocha and María Zambrano stations, which will result in no less than an extra 28,000 seats.
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