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Ouigo double-decker train at Atocha station in Madrid. AFP
Ouigo hits back at transport minister's criticism of low-cost train operators in Spain
Rail travel

Ouigo hits back at transport minister's criticism of low-cost train operators in Spain

Óscar Puente criticised the French company and another private operator, Iryo, for their low prices and blamed them for the Spanish state rail company Renfe's 'poor results'

Monday, 25 March 2024, 22:20

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Spain's transport minister Óscar Puente has told Congress he is uneasy about the introduction into the Spanish market of new high-speed rail operators, Ouigo and Iryo, which are reducing prices on the main routes where state rail operator Renfe previously had no competition. It triggered Alain Krakovitch, president of Ouigo Spain, to hit back at the minister: "We do not have public subsidies".

General manager of Ouigo in Spain, Hélène Valenzuela, said the operator "has made the market grow" as it has considerably increased the demand for trains and reduced the number of people travelling by air. On routes such as Madrid-Barcelona, the share of trains compared to air travel has grown from 65% to 78% in the past year, according to data from the CNMC.

Krakovitch said demand for Ouigo, Iryo and Renfe services have grown on all their routes, with the great beneficiaries being state rail infrastructure company Adif - to whom they will pay 1billion euros in the ten years of the framework contract - and the public "who previously could not afford an elitist product". "This is the first time we have been criticised for having low prices," Ouigo said.

The director of Ouigo in Spain during the press conference.
The director of Ouigo in Spain during the press conference. E. M.

Ouigo, which has operated for almost three years in Spain, said it will achieve financial equilibrium in 2024 and will leave behind losses, with a business model based on high-capacity double-decker trains carrying 509 passengers per journey. The French company pointed out the average occupancy rate of its trains is 90% and they find it "strange" the transport minister talks about the sector suffering when the frequency on major routes has increased by 60%, according to CNMC data.

In response to the controversy over Renfe's problems in entering the French market, the operator's president said the only issue is that Renfe and Talgo want to approve trains that are technically different from the French ones, which means the process will be "inevitably longer". "We have invested five years in technical procedures until we can reach Seville in 2024," he said.

About to mark three years since its first Madrid-Barcelona service on 10 May 2021, Ouigo has counted almost 10 million passengers, with a fleet that in summer will reach 16 trains in Spain and promised to continue to invest in the country with future new routes, such as the Mediterranean arc and the Basque region.

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