From next year, you’ll be able to travel between Madrid and Barcelona on ‘smart trains’ that will be both low-cost AND high-speed. They’ll even have WiFi!


Introducing low-cost train travel to Spain with Renfe’s ‘smart trains’

Renfe, Spain’s rail operator, has announced plans for new ‘smart trains’ that will provide a low-cost alternative to the premium high-speed AVE service in place across much of the country. The new service, called EVA, will be launched next year with five trains in each direction between Madrid and Barcelona. Whilst there are details that still need to be worked out, Iñigo de la Serna, the Minister of Development was able to offer a few insights into the new service.

In a series of tweets, Iñigo de la Serna said the service will operate a ‘Smart Train’ concept focussed on intermodality, digitalisation, sustainability and innovation. Here’s one of his tweet’s with a picture of what the new train could look like:

Low-cost flying has been around for a while now. And whilst low-cost flying has its critics, there’s no denying that it’s revolutionised air travel. Not only are more people able to fly but more places are accessible now too. With some flights offering cheaper tickets than the same route by train, I reckon low-cost train travel is long-overdue!

How will EVA differ to AVE?

Cheaper

Like AVE trains, the high-speed EVA trains will travel between the two cities in three hours. However, tickets will be around 20-25% cheaper.

Currently, the average one-way ticket for a Madrid-Barcelona AVE train is €98. Of course, for the cheapest tickets, you need to book in advance. Presumably, the same will be true for EVA trains. Journey times on the AVE service range from 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours 10 minutes. So the EVA service will be doing similar speeds.

Smarter

Iñigo de la Serna explained that the innovative service will be cheaper to run because it will operate a ‘Smart Train’ concept. As part of this, you’ll only be able to buy tickets online or with an app. Tickets will also only be available digitally so there will be no need to have a physical ticket. In addition to this, the ticketing system will be ‘multi-modal’. This means you can buy an integrated ticket that includes the train journey and any onwards travel such as bus, metro, taxi or even car hire. And in line with what you’d expect from a ‘smart train’, the service will come with WiFI. I expect there will also be power points fitted so you can charge your smartphone on Renfe’s smart train.

More seats and more flexible

Another way the new trains can offer a cheaper service is by having more seats. The standard seating configuration for EVA trains will feature three seats either side of the aisle. AVE trains have two seats either side of the aisle so will be more spacious. If you’ve bought ‘Preferente‘ seats in AVE, you’ll have even more space as there’s two seats on one side of the aisle and a single seat on the other. However, Renfe added that the EVA trains will be designed to adapt to different types of travel including business.

Not quite Barcelona…

Finally, whilst AVE trains travel between Madrid Atocha and Barcelona Sants, the EVA route will travel between Madrid Atocha and El Prat de Llobregat, which is about 20 minutes from Barcelona’s city centre. This seems a small inconvenience if any, however as there are regular commuter trains that go from El Prat de Llobregat to Barcelona Sants in a little over 10 minutes. It’s also got good public transport connections to other locations around the city.

Renfe said that El Prat de Llobregat Station will be a base for EVA when it is launched. The rail operator added that this route has the greatest potential to attract passengers onto the train. This is because it already has good connections to Barcelona’s city centre and Barcelona Airport, which is just a few kilometres from the station. Presumably, it also means that it isn’t completely in direct competition with AVE trains!

Capturing air and bus passengers

Spain’s high-speed trains are already an increasingly popular way to travel across the country. Of all the people making the Madrid to Barcelona journey, Renfe said 65% do so by train. The rail operator hopes that EVA’s smart trains will appeal to younger passengers who would normally take the bus. The smart train concept of the new service is also likely to be attractive to younger passengers who have grown up with smartphones.