The contract will include 30 very high-speed trains, plus 10 dual-gauge units to be used on Alvia services which operate over both the high-speed and conventional rail networks. The order will increase Renfe's current fleet to 271 trains.

Train orders under the new framework contract will be issued progressively, in accordance with high-speed travel demand, which is expected to increase as Spain will open 800km of passenger-dedicated lines in the next few months, extending the high-speed network in the north from Valladolid to León and Burgos, from Olmedo near Medina del Campo to Zamora, and in the south to Murcia.

The order will also give Renfe some room to react to competition, as the Spanish government confirmed last week the imminent launch of a tender to select a private passenger operator.

The winning bidder, a single company, will be allowed to compete against Renfe for seven years on a group of lines, starting six months after the tender is awarded. The winner will be able to choose which routes to operate between Madrid, Valencia, Alicante and Murcia, using both the conventional and the high-speed lines.

The last time Renfe launched an open tender to buy high-speed trains was a decade ago, when several supply contracts were signed with Talgo, CAF, Alstom and Siemens.