SPAIN’s minister of transport and sustainable mobility, Mr Óscar Puente, says that national operator Renfe is preparing a complaint to the European Commission (EC), alleging that French National Railways’ (SNCF) low-cost subsidiary Ouigo is engaging in unfair competition in the Spanish high-speed market.

Puente claims that Ouigo is offering fares that do not cover its operating costs, and has previously said that the government would refer these “deeply unfair” practices to Spain’s National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC).

In a recent radio interview, the minister said that he now wants the EC to rule on the matter. According to Puente, Ouigo has been offering fares well below the cost of production since it began operations in Spain in May 2021.

This has produced “bad results on routes that were highly profitable,” Puente says, such as Madrid - Barcelona where Renfe is completing with Ouigo, as well as fellow new entrant Iryo.

“Opening up the rail market has brought positive results, it has obviously increased the number of services and it has brought down ticket prices, but it has reduced them to a level that is unsustainable for the three competitors,” Puente says.

According to the minister, “competition must be a fair fight and it has to allow the three companies to make a profit or, at the very least, not to make a loss.” Puente has also claimed that Ouigo is losing €40m a year in Spain, while the SNCF subsidiary has said that it will achieve breakeven this year.

Puente has previously accused France of a “lack of reciprocity” in the matter of opening national high-speed networks up to competition, citing the difficulties that Renfe has experienced in expanding its high-speed operations on SNCF infrastructure.

Delays to obtaining approval for its Talgo Avril high-speed trains to operate in France forced Renfe to abandon its objective of launching a Barcelona - Paris service before the opening of the Olympic Games in Paris on July 24.

The Spanish national operator has recently set up a French subsidiary to progress this and other projects as it looks to compete with SNCF in its home market.