“The day has arrived. Today we are finally celebrating the start of operations of our trains and that liberalization is a reality despite the pandemic,” the general director of Ouigo Spain, Hélène Valenzuela , celebrated earlier this Friday in a platform at Atocha station before embarking on the maiden voyage of Ouigo, the French ‘low cost’ train that begins the liberalization of rail transport in Spain.
It will be next Monday when the first travelers will get on the French train, in one of its five daily frequencies. Two of them will stop in Zaragoza and one in Tarragona. Both Valenzuela and Christophe Fanichet, the president of SNCF Voyager, the transport division of the French public company, have expressed their long-term commitment to the country at a crucial moment that also coincides with the end of the state of alarm and ” back to normal “.
The French proposal is different from what has been seen so far in Spanish stations. Trains painted in striking blue and pink colors and with two floors. The interior moves away from the ‘low cost’ concept of aircraft with more spacious seats than one might expect .
There will be a cafeteria wagon, although with the pandemic we will still have to wait to have this offer up and running. All this with dynamic prices that start at 9 euros for adults and a flat rate of 5 euros for children between 4 and 14 years old.
“We want to popularize high speed , we want to be the means of transportation for the whole family, children, adults and pets,” said Valenzuela. That is the main objective of the company, to reach the whole family , to change the trips within Spain that were made by plane and, above all, by car, by train.
Thus, all tickets are customizable , with a base rate starting at nine euros that includes hand luggage and cabin luggage, as well as the option to change the ticket holder until the day before the trip. In addition, the possibility of adding other services a la carte is offered , with an additional charge.
For an additional 9 euros per passenger, the company offers’ Ouigo Plus, a ‘pack’ that includes numerous extra services: choice of seat, possibility of reserving an XL seat, an additional piece of luggage, and connection to ‘OUIFun’, the platform entertainment company.
The arrival of the competition to the railroad will allow to amortize the 65,000 million euros that all Spaniards have invested and which more people will now be able to enjoy, according to the Secretary of State for Transport, Pedro Saura.
Saura has defended that with this “everyone wins”; the railroad “as a strategic mode of transport”, the users because there will be more frequencies and better prices, and the industry, because, “when there is more competition there is more innovation”.
In addition, Saura has highlighted the importance of promoting the train, “the mode of transport that produces the least emissions” , to advance in the fight against climate change . Along the same lines, the president of the National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC), Cani Fernández, has defined the train as the most important engine of the green transition “not only for travelers but also for goods.”
“We have equipped ourselves with the best infrastructures at an international level but we were not being able to take advantage of it . The objective of the liberalization process is to remedy this situation,” summarized the president of Adif, Isabel Pardo de Vera .