Last August, for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the volume of passengers on the Madrid-Barcelona high-speed line was higher than at any time prior to the health crisis. Up to 308,991 people travelled between the two cities last August, compared to 265,217 users in August 2019. The recovery rate in terms of passenger numbers thus stands at 117%. It is worth noting that traffic on the Madrid-Barcelona corridor is usually lower during the summer compared to the rest of the year, so this data is all the most significant.
This milestone demonstrates not only the progressive recovery of mobility in general and the use of railways compared to other modes of transport, but also the effect of liberalisation of passenger rail traffic, which began in December 2020. The data shows that Ouigo, the new operator on the Madrid-Barcelona high-speed corridor, as well as the creation of the Avlo low-cost service by Renfe, has had a very positive effect on demand. In August, 63% of passengers travelling between Madrid and Barcelona and vice versa used Renfe services, while the remaining 37% opted for Ouigo.
Growth in passenger traffic on the Madrid-Barcelona line has been steady in recent months, both for Renfe and Ouigo, showing that the entire sector is benefitting from the liberalisation process. The forthcoming incorporation of a third railway company, Ilsa, as well as the start of Ouigo’s operations on the Madrid-Levante and Madrid-Andalusia corridors, will enable this trend to continue. The performance of the Madrid-Alicante/Murcia corridor should be highlighted in this regard, with a traffic recovery rate of 96% in August and an upward trend in recent months. The entire corridor between Madrid and the French border has a recovery rate of 91%.
Railways are playing a major role in the current context of mobility recovery. In Spain, commuter lines now stand at 97% compared to pre-Covid records, followed by freight at 95%, mid-distance at 88%, and long-distance (high-speed and conventional) at 72%.