PASSENGER numbers on the Madrid - Barcelona high-speed line were higher during August than they were during the same month in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic says Spanish infrastructure manager Adif AV.

The number of passengers travelling between the two cities was 308,991, compared with 265,217 in August 2019. Adif AV says this means the recovery for passenger numbers is 117%. It also notes that during the summer there is usually a reduction in traffic on the line.

Adif AV claims that not only do the figures show the progressive recovery for rail compared to other modes of transport, but they also show the effect of liberalisation of passenger rail traffic.

This took place in December 2020 when French National Railways’ (SNCF) low-cost subsidiary Ouigo launched ticket sales for its trains operating on the Madrid - Barcelona line beginning on May 10.

In June, Spanish national operator Renfe launched its low-cost Avlo service on the line. These were due to have started in April 2020, but the launch was delayed by Covid-19

Adif AV says that 63% of those travelling on the line used Renfe services, with the other 37% using Ouigo.

Even more passengers are expected to use the Madrid - Barcelona high-speed line when a third company, Ilsa, starts operating trains in the first half of 2022, running between the two cities and the French border. Ilsa is targeting a 30% market share of all high-speed passengers on its routes. Ouigo is also planning a Madrid - Levante and Madrid - Valencia service.

Adif AV highlights that the Madrid - Alicante/Murcia line recorded a 96% recovery rate for passenger use in August, followed by the corridor between Madrid and France, which recorded a 91% recovery rate.

Renfe also recorded the highest number of weekend passengers since the start of the pandemic between September 17 and 19. The operator says that a total of 213,607 passengers used Ave, Avlo and long-distance trains.

Renfe says 83,687 travelled on September 17, 78,522 on September 19 and 51,398 on September 18. In the same weekend in September 2019 there were 274,202 passengers on Ave and long-distance trains. Last year, over the same weekend, there were 85,958 passengers.