Spanish rail operator Renfe has completed the registration of a French branch in Lyon, France with the French commercial register.
The new Renfe branch is located next to the Lyon Part Dieu Station and has been granted permission by the French authorities to begin commercial activity “imminently”.
Ticket sales for the first Barcelona–Lyon and Madrid–Marseille services will begin later this week, according to the company.
The opening of this branch is a key step for the full operation of Renfe in France. According to the Lyon commercial register, Renfe is registered for “the provision of rail passenger transport services, both nationally and internationally”.
Renfe is also registered for “the intermediation in the provision of any tourist service; the organisation, provision and/or marketing of trips combined or tourist packages, travel packages or tourist products; as well as the provision of other complementary services or activities or related to rail transport.”
Spain, and more recently France, is becoming a battleground for train operators, with increased competition thanks to the liberalisation of European railways due to the EU Fourth Railway Package.
Returning cross-border service
Renfe and French operator SNCF previously operated a joint venture high-speed service between the two countries, called Elipsos, which SNCF unilaterally decided to dissolve in 2022.
According to Catalonian outlet El Periodico, Renfe has “always blamed” the French authorities and SNCF for the difficulties in offering cross-border services with France.
But in practice, the registration with the French commercial register completes the administrative process necessary for the full operation of Renfe in France, a “priority market” in the Spanish operator’s internationalisation strategy.
The most immediate milestone for Renfe will be the commissioning of new AVE trains to link Barcelona with Lyon and Madrid with Marseille. The company says ticket sales for these services will be announced “announce “in the coming days”.
The next steps, according to Renfe, will be the expansion of AVE trains to the corridors with the highest density and economic potential for the company and to boost Renfe’s profile as a train operator with the French public.
Renfe is purportedly looking to expand to routes further afield from its Spanish heartland, having reportedly expressed an intention to challenge Eurostar by running a high-speed train service between Paris and London.