RENFE, Spain’s state-owned rail operator, is having talks about operating a high-speed passenger service between London and Paris that would compete against Eurostar.
Since its high-profile launch in 1994, the channel tunnel service has been provided by just one operator, completely unchallenged.
Renfe wants to run its own two-hour service between the two capitals, utilising time slots still available through the tunnel.
HS1, who manage the tracks between London St Pancras and the south coast, are reported to be “very interested in the development of the project”, along with Getlink, the Channel Tunnel’s own operator.
Eurostar’s majority-owner, SNCF, launched heavily-discounted services from France into Spain only this year.
Trips from Paris to Barcelona cost €39, and Marseille to Madrid is still only €59.
Renfe looks to have countered the bold move by claiming: ‘According to the demand analysis carried out, it would be viable and profitable for [us] to compete with Eurostar’.
Pre-pandemic, Eurostar carried more than 11 million passengers and provided more than 80% of journeys between London, Paris and Brussels.
However, travel restrictions during various Covid lockdowns reduced services to as few as one a day.
They were bailed out with a £250m loan in a refinancing deal with shareholders and banks in May, 2021.
At the time, The Financial Times said: “While running trains from the UK to the continent is technically simple, the border infrastructure needed to run passport and security checks within stations has stifled the growth of high-speed rail between the UK and Europe.”
With high-speed RENFE services now reaching the south coast of Spain, when will we see a rail connection from Costa Blanca all the way to London without having to change?
Currently, Orihuela to Madrid takes 2h 30m via Alicante, Madrid to Paris averages 19 hours, and Paris to London is a swift 2h 20m.
In theory, and with timely connections, the trip could be made within 24 hours on one ticket, with one service provider.