THE first high-speed AVE service to be operated throughout by Renfe between Madrid and Marseille in France left the Spanish capital at 13.25 on July 28.

The service from Madrid Atocha was due to arrive in Marseille at 21.30, after calling at Guadalajara, Zaragoza, Camp de Tarragona, Barcelona Sants, Girona, Figueres Vilafant, Perpignan, Narbonne, Béziers, Montpellier Saint Roch, Nîmes, Avignon TGV and Aix-en-Provence TGV.

The inaugural timetable has one service leaving Madrid on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and a return working that leaves Marseille for Madrid on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

This service leaves Marseille at 08.03 to arrive in Madrid at 15.45, making the same intermediate stops as the Madrid - Marseille train with the exception of Guadalajara.

The first train to Marseille on July 28 marks the latest stage in Renfe’s entry into the French market, which began on July 13 with the launch of a Barcelona - Lyon service that runs once a day from Friday to Monday.

AVE high-speed services will begin running every day to Lyon in September and every day to Marseille in October, offering a total of 28 trains a week.

After serving Lyon and Marseille, Renfe says that its next objective will be to add Paris to its international network “and compete as an operator of reference in the three major cities of France.”

Ticket sales for the new services to Lyon and Marseille began on June 21, with launch prices including a fare of €19 from Montpellier and Narbonne to Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid. Tickets for the entire journey from Lyon to Barcelona or Marseille to Madrid were priced at €29.

The launch of the service to Marseille doubles the Renfe service frequency on the section between Barcelona and Nîmes shared with trains to Lyon. The combination of two services in each direction, convenient schedules and shorter journey times should prove attractive to passengers in both Spain and France, Renfe says.

“The uptake in both France and Spain has been very positive,” said Renfe president, Mr Raúl Blanco. “In a little more than a month we have sold over 70,000 tickets, of which 40,000 are for the Madrid - Marseille service.

“We are continuing to work with the aim of operating our trains to Paris in 2024. Our goal is that the Spanish athletes taking part in the Olympic Games will use our trains and that Renfe’s Games train will arrive in Paris in 2024.”