Spanish high-speed rail services set new passenger record in third quarter of 2023

Spanish high-speed rail services set new passenger record in third quarter of 2023
© Ľubomír Čech

In the third quarter of 2023, Spain's high-speed rail services witnessed a surge in passenger numbers, reaching an all-time high with over 8.4 million travellers.


This represents a significant 32% increase compared to the same period in 2022, as per the Passenger Transport by Railway Report.

The Madrid-Valencia corridor experienced the highest year-on-year growth, with a 96% increase and 1.4 million passengers. This was followed by the Madrid-Alicante route, which saw a 66% rise to nearly one million passengers, and the Andalusia corridors with a 30% growth. The Madrid-Alicante corridor, in particular, witnessed competition among three operators and four commercial brands: Ave, Avlo, Ouigo, and Iryo, for the first time throughout the quarter.

However, not all corridors saw an increase. The Madrid-Barcelona and Madrid-Sevilla routes experienced a decline in passengers by 10% and 8%, respectively, attributed to the seasonal summer period. These declines were nevertheless smaller than those seen in other third quarters.

© Ľubomír Čech
© Ľubomír Čech

Market shares of Spanish high-speed rail operators

Renfe Viajeros maintained its position as the leading operator in all corridors, holding between 50% and 74% of the market share. Iryo, a notable competitor, increased its market share by over 7 percentage points in the Andalusia corridors, holding 32% in Madrid-Sevilla and 26% in Madrid-Málaga/Granada.

Impact on ticket prices

The entrance of Iryo into the Madrid-Sevilla and Madrid-Málaga routes led to a notable reduction in ticket prices, decreasing by 24% and 19%, respectively. This reduction amounted to at least 10 euros across all products, according to prices collected by CNMC. On the Madrid-Barcelona route, new entrants and Renfe's Avlo offered average prices of around 40 euros, while prices on the Madrid-Valencia and Madrid-Alicante routes were around 22 euros and between 25 to 30 euros, respectively.

Other passenger services in Spain

Discounts and free travel introduced by Royal Decree-Law 14/2022 significantly increased passengers in services under public service obligations, operated exclusively by Renfe Viajeros. There was a 76% increase in Conventional Medium Distance, 40% in High-Speed Medium Distance, and 21% in Commuter services, compared to the same quarter last year. However, Long-Distance Conventional passengers decreased by about 6%.

Spanish freight transport challenges

The freight transport sector experienced a downturn compared to the previous quarter, with a 7.6% decrease in net tons and a 10.2% decrease in net ton-kilometres. Year-on-year comparisons also showed negative trends, reaching lows in the third quarter only surpassed by the second quarter of 2020 during the pandemic. Renfe Mercancías held a 45% market share, followed by Captrain at 18% and Continental at 15%. Medway showed notable progress compared to the same quarter in 2022.

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