THE train has officially overtaken the plane. At least between Madrid and Barcelona, that is.
In the third quarter of this year more passengers took the new fast track AVE train than flew between Spain’s two principal cities.
Between July and September, 651,498 passengers made the 314-mile train journey, a rise of 21 per cent compared with the same period last year.
In comparison, 643,512 travellers made the journey by aircraft during the same period, a fall of 7.5 per cent compared with the third quarter of last year.
Madrid to Barcelona is the fifth busiest air route in the world, with four airlines offering 116 flights a day.
Since the rail link opened last year, Renfe and the airlines have fought a fierce battle to win passengers.
The high-speed train, which takes 2hr 40min to travel between Madrid and Barcelona, at 236.3 kilometres per hour, has won over commuters with competitive fares, greater comfort and the absence of elaborate airport security.
It also offers promotions to attract tourists, as well as business travellers.
In Spain, the Socialist Government is expanding the high-speed network rapidly. Renfe plans that by 2020 everybody in the country will live within 50 kilometres of the network. However, the expansion comes at a cost: the Government plans to spend €119 billion on infrastructure and millions more on trains.