High-speed rail operators enter the fray

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High-speed rail operators enter the fray

What could be better than a wide-ranging high-speed rail network? Three or four competing ones, which look set to improve travelers' options, will also hopefully drive prices down.

In 2021, Renfe was joined by French-owned upstart Ouigo and launched its own low-cost arm, Avlo, in response.

With iryo's arrival, that makes three official competitors but four competing brands - making Spain the first country in Europe to have so many high-speed options.

Iryo is owned by some major players, including Italian state railway operator Trenitalia, Spanish infrastructure company Globalvia and Air Nostrum, a Spanish airline.

Iryo launched Friday with operations between Madrid, Barcelona and Zaragoza and will continue on December 16 with Madrid, Cuenca and Valencia. More routes are available in 2023: connections to Seville, Malaga, Cordoba and Antequera on March 31, and Alicante and Albacete on June 2.

The company has signed agreements to offer combined tickets and travel experiences with Cercan as regional metro area commuter rail systems and Air Europa. It will run 30% of Spain's high-speed services, and aims to carry eight million passengers a year.

The trains have four classes of travel - the intriguingly named Inicial, Singular, Singular Only You and Infinita, billed as being centered around customization and flexibility. Three of the seats onboard will be tailored to business travelers, according to the company in a statement, but all seats will have USB and standard power sockets, individual armrests and free 5 G Wi-Fi.

The company says that the Haezea menu, which means wind in the Basque language, will be full of seasonal ingredients and healthy options on the spot.

Spanish politicians attended a maiden voyage on Monday. It was hailed as a decisive step in the advance towards new mobility in Spain by Ximo Puig, president of the Generalitat Valenciana.

The launch was in response to the environmental and social sustainability goals set by the European Union to improve travel in every country, according to Trenitalia's Luigi Corradi. While Nick Brooks, secretary general of ALLRAIL the Alliance of Passenger Rail New Entrants in Europe, said that it was great to see how commercially driven Open Access services such as iryo are making long-distance rail more attractive and attracts travelers away from less sustainable transport modes. The group called for competition between different operators on all high-speed rail lines in Europe, and called on companies like iryo the future of passenger rail. From December availability, tickets for the 382 mile, 2 hr 45 minute journey from Barcelona to Madrid start at just €18 $19, though most of the journeys are around €50. It would take over six hours to drive between the two cities.