IRYO CEO, Mr Simone Gorini, has been very busy in the lead-up to starting operation between Madrid and Barcelona on November 25, reporting months of “very intense” work. “Thanks to the efforts of all Iryo staff and our partners, we have been meeting the deadlines,” he says.

The new entrant to the Spanish high-speed market is starting operation with nine of its planned fleet of 20 Hitachi Frecciarossa 1000 trains, and Gorini reports that their production was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but not to a significant extent.

Preparations for the launch have included “commercial dry runs between Madrid and Barcelona, testing all the elements of our service to ensure maximum quality,” Gorini says. Rolling stock deliveries will continue at a rate of one to two trains every month until May 2023, when all 20 will be in service. “We are the only rail operator in Spain that will operate with a fleet of 20 brand new trains,” Gorini points out. “We want to revolutionise high speed,” he says, and in this way Iryo aims to attract eight million passengers a year by 2025.

“Iryo's plan is to make new investment to expand the fleet with new units that can run on Iberian gauge.”

Simone Gorini

The state-of-the-art Frecciarossa fleet “is also the most sustainable, fastest, quietest and safest in Europe,” Gorini says, manufactured with 95% recyclable materials and powered by 100% renewable energy to limit CO2 emissions to 28 grammes per passenger-km. “They will be equipped with all the comforts of home,” and will enable Iryo to offer passengers “a rail travel experience unique in the market based on flexibility, personalisation, sustainability and integrated transport with which we want to create the new standard for high speed.”

According to their needs, passengers can choose to travel in four different classes or “comfort zones” - Infinita offering “great comfort without limits,” Singular Only You and Singular also aimed at the business traveller, and Inicial. All seats will be covered in leather, and in all four classes will have individual armrests equipped with USB and standard sockets. Passengers will have free onboard Wi-Fi “with the possibility of 5G connection,” Gorini says.

Iryo is operating a fleet of new Hitachi Frecciarossa 1000 trains. Photo: Iryo

Passengers travelling in Singular, Singular Only You and Infinita class can also order at-seat meals via the Iryo website, which says that its trains will also have “the best bar/restaurant on European high-speed trains.” To set itself apart from the competition, Iryo has created its own onboard catering brand, Haizea, which will offer “a wide variety of menus prepared on the spot, from breakfast to dinner,” Gorini says, featuring seasonal produce, healthy options, premium drink brands and a changing wine list selected from among Spain’s top producers.

“Our vocation is to turn the trip into an experience,” Gorini says. “We want to become the preferred transport option and attract more and more people to high-speed as a more sustainable option.” And this will mean focusing on all sections of the market, not just the most price-sensitive travellers. “We are not a low-cost operator, but we will have flexible tickets at a competitive price in the market,” Gorini says.

The Iryo CEO sees a potential market of 30 million customers along the company’s future network. “Spain is at an early stage of passenger rail liberalisation and as a global operator our vocation is to continue growing,” he says. The initial Madrid - Barcelona service has launched with 12 services, which will ramp to a maximum of 32 from September 2023. 16 trains will operate in each direction with nine calling at Zaragoza. Iryo is due to start operation on the Madrid - Cuenca - Valencia route on December 16 of this year, “and in the first quarter of 2023 we will connect the capital with the cities of Córdoba, Seville, Antequera and Málaga,” Gorini says. “In June 2023 we will reach Alicante and Albacete.

“Iryo wants to be a global operator in Spain and that includes the north, for which we would need to make additional investment beyond the initial €1bn.”

To operate to destinations beyond the limit of Spain’s 1435mm-gauge high-speed infrastructure, Iryo would need dual-gauge rolling stock to use the conventional 1668mm-gauge network. “Iryo's plan is to make new investment in the future to expand the fleet with new units that can run on Iberian gauge,” Gorini says.

The launch of Iryo has been “a very enriching professional and personal experience” for Gorini with all of the hard work finally bearing fruit on November 25. “Actively participating in the implementation of the high-speed rail operation of the first Spanish private operator is a unique opportunity,” he says. “I have learned and continue to learn a lot and the experience and lessons from Italian railway liberalisation have been key for me.”