The Spanish government plans to launch a public tender to select an industrial partner for Renfe Freight, although details on the financial aspects of the operation or the exact date when the tendering process will start are still unknown.
The announcement comes less than a year after Renfe and DB Schenker signed a strategic agreement in which both companies agreed "to cooperate in different issues, such as the market liberalisation process". The very same day, French National Railways (SNCF) confirmed its decision to acquire a 25% stake in Spanish open-access freight operator Comsa Rail Transport (CRT).
As part of the liberalisation process, Renfe has been divided in four subsidiaries: the two operators Renfe Freight and Renfe Travellers; a rolling stock leasing company with an initial fleet composed of 19 high-speed trains along with conventional passenger stock; and a fourth branch responsible for maintenance activities.
The Spanish government is also set to partially open the high-speed rail market to competition before July. With final regulations still to be issued, the plan is to allow only a limited number of operators to compete against state-owned train operator Renfe, and only on selected routes.
To gain access to these routes, new entrants will have to bid for a temporary permit from the government, while Renfe Travellers will be allowed to continue to operate its current services without limits.