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The origins of the Spanish railway network

The train, that very charming means of transport, is intimately linked to the history of our country, perhaps this is why we feel so nostalgic when we travel by train.

The first train lines began to be built in the 19th century and we are still creating new train lines, especially High Speed ??trains lines, and they have become a fundamental element in our society and our economy.

With the advent of industrialization and capitalism, plus examples of economic and social momentum coming from England, Germany, France and other European countries, Spanish leaders saw in the railway lines a magnificent service to make our country grow and that was the start of the great expansion of the train line.

The first Spanish train was built in Cuba, back in 1837 when Cuba was a Spanish province, but it was not until 1848 when the first Spanish railway line was built, linking Barcelona with Mataró, this line is still active. Afterwards, a rapid growth in the creation of other lines of Iberian width started, until the Civil War began in our country in 1936 and the railway network was badly damaged.

Tren antiguo

The narrow-gauge railways also had their booming, a strong expansion at the end of the 19th century began, especially in the northern part of Spain. This metric was chosen by the mountainous terrain of this zone, the majority of these trains were miners but they also transported passengers. The most important narrow-gauge line was that which bounded Leon and Bilbao as it was the longest and it is still the longest narrow-gauge line in Europe.

The twentieth century would bring us trams and suburban railways. Also, the first electrified train lines. In 1911, the first electrified line was inaugurated in Spain. In 1941, all the trains of Iberian width began to be nationalized and they ended up integrated in the National Network of the Spanish Railroads, now known by all as RENFE.

Origins and history

The national network of the Spanish railways was founded in 1941 and operated on Iberian gauge trains, transporting passengers and goods until 2005, when by European regulations on rail transport RENFE was divided into ADIF and Renfe Operadora, taking charge of the first of the infrastructures on the railway lines and the second of the operation of the public trains.

In 1941 it was ordered to bring together all the companies that operated in Iberian gauge in a single one, RENFE, among the most important companies that became part of RENFE were the Company of the Iron Roads of the North of Spain, the Railway Company from Madrid to Zaragoza and Alicante and the national western Railway Company.


After this, Renfe was the only company that managed the train lines and did so for 64 years.

When it was created it had 12,401 km of track and had to face the damage suffered during the Civil War, in 1949 a plan was approved to rebuild and reform the railway network, locomotives and wagons,

In 1950 the first commercial services of the Talgo trains began, which covered the route between Madrid and Hendaye.

During the 60s the Spanish economy progressively improved and it was also noticeable in the world of trains, especially on the line between Madrid and Barcelona. By then, the construction of new lines stopped and efforts were focused on improving the existing rail network. In the early 1980s, Cercanías train services began to be implemented in major cities such as Barcelona, ​​Malaga, Madrid and Valencia, and during this decade the train stations of Madrid, Seville and Barcelona, ​​among others, were modernized. In the 90s the Santa Justa Station was built in Seville. In 1992, the railway structure and train stations were reorganized in Barcelona, ​​the Barcelona Término station was remodeled, which was also renamed the Francia station and the Barcelona Sants station, and that year the 1992 Olympic Games took place.

The twentieth century would bring us trams and suburban railways. Also, the first electrified train lines. In 1911, the first electrified line was inaugurated in Spain. In 1941, all the trains of Iberian width began to be nationalized and they ended up integrated in the National Network of the Spanish Railroads, now known by all as RENFE.

The arrival of High Speed Trains in Spain

It was on April 21, 1992 when the first high-speed line was inaugurated, the one that connects Madrid and Seville and took place coinciding with Expo 92. In that year, 1.31 million passengers were transported by this Renfe AVE train and in its first 25 years it has carried 71.1 passengers.

AVE as a commercial brand began to be used to name precisely this high-speed line between Madrid and Seville.

This new High Speed infrastructure is called AVE: Spanish High Speed. AVE trains run on international European tracks and can reach 300 km/h.

Renfe AVE

After the Madrid Seville AVE line, the one that connects Madrid and Barcelona was inaugurated, after this the High Speed ​​line between Madrid, Segovia and Valladolid and the one that connects Madrid and Barcelona with Zaragoza took place. The arrival of the AVE to the Valencian Community, Castilla la Mancha and Andalusia is also noteworthy.

In 1997, the Euromed trains were put into circulation, which are also high-speed trains that transported passengers between Barcelona, ​​Valencia and Alicante on Iberian gauge lines. That same year, work began to link France with the rest of Europe through the Madrid-Zaragoza-Barcelona-French Border high-speed line, and in 2003 Madrid was connected with Lérida and Zaragoza and Madrid with Huesca.

As we mentioned, it was in 2005 when RENFE was divided into Renfe Operadora and Adif, the former being in charge of the operation of the trains and with the commercial brand AVE and Adif was left with the operation of the infrastructure, that is, with the lines Of high speed.

The construction of high-speed lines has been incessant since then, it should be noted that in 2007 the AVE line that connected Madrid, Segovia and Valladolid arrived, the one that connected Córdoba and Malaga and the one that connected Lérida and Tarragona. In 2008 AVE trains began to arrive at Barcelona Sants station. In turn, new stations for AVE trains were built, such as Joaquín Sorolla's in Valencia and Fernando Zobel's in Cuenca.

Renfe AVE 2

In 2009 RENFE introduced the Alvia trains and the increase in the number of users on the trains was noticed.

In 2010 AVE trains began operating between Madrid, Cuenca and Valencia with a travel time of 1 hours and 35 minutes.

In 2011 the AVE trains between Madrid and Barcelona increased their speed to reach 310 km/h.

And the high-speed lines, the number of trains in service, the number of passengers and the specific promotions to encourage the use of AVE trains have not stopped growing. For all these reasons, our high-speed network has more than 3,000 kilometers and is one of the most extensive in the world, positioning trains as the main means of collective transport for long-distance national routes.

The growth in demand for high-speed train travel has been possible thanks to public investment and its technological development; today, for example, we have AVE trains that are gradually arriving to all the capitals of the Spanish state.

Types of Renfe trains

Renfe AVE: AVE stands for Spanish High Speed and refers to High Speed trains that cover long distances. They have been in Spain since April 1992 with the Madrid - Seville route.

Tren AVE

After joining Seville and Madrid by AVE trains, the next step was to do it between Madrid - Zaragoza - Barcelona - French Border and it was in 2003 when Madrid, Zaragoza and Lérida and Madrid were connected with Huesca through the AVE. Almost three years after RENFE was divided into Renfe Operadora and Adif was connected by High Speed ​​Córdoba and Malaga with Madrid and Madrid with Valladolid. In 2008, the travel time between Madrid and Barcelona was reduced to 2 and a half hours. In 2010 it began to provide service on the Madrid - Levante HSR connecting Madrid, Cuenca and Valencia in 1 hours and 36 minutes. In 2011 the AVE trains increased their speed to 310 km / h to travel between Madrid and Barcelona. Since then, high-speed routes throughout our country have not stopped growing.

AVE trains are high-end trains that circulate on international gauge lines over long distances, and it is undoubtedly Renfe Operadora's flagship train, being the first train to reach 310 km/h and together with Euromed trains, it is the only The one that offers catering in the seat and as they cover great distances include cafeteria.

All AVE trains are approved to reach at least 300 km/h. Among other possible classes, the usual thing is to be able to travel by AVE in Economy and Preferential class.

It is one of the most ecological trains since it uses much less energy than other types of trains.

Renfe Alvia: It is another of the long-distance rail services offered by Renfe Operadora, combining high-speed sections with others at lower speed on conventional gauge tracks. Alvia train routes have progressively replaced those of Altaria. The main objective of the Alvia trains is that towns that do not have AVE trains can also benefit from reduced travel times.

Renfe Alvia

The Alvia trains began to circulate in 2006 on the Madrid-Zaragoza-Barcelona-French Border section and replaced most of the Altaria trains between Madrid and Barcelona.

In 2.008 the Alvia Madrid Barcelona stopped running and were replaced by the faster AVE trains.

Renfe AV City: These trains are considered the low cost line of AVE trains, they are also High Speed ​​trains, although somewhat lower than that reached by AVE trains, they perform daytime services and have only Turista class. These trains complement the offer of AVE trains at lower prices to increase their use by passengers. On this type of train, due to the low price of tickets, no complementary services are offered, but they do have a coffee shop, places for people with reduced mobility and toilets.

Renfe Euromed: Euromed trains are also day trains, they have been running since June 16, 1997, connecting towns on the Mediterranean coast through the Mediterranean Corridor. They have a cafeteria, restaurant, music, video and daily newspapers. You can travel on Euromed trains in Turista and Preferente class.

Renfe Euromed

Renfe Talgo: Its name comes from the acronym Goicoechea Oriol Articulated Light Train, by its designer Alejandro Goicoechea and by the person who financed the manufacture of the first trains, José Luis Oriol, both built in the 40s the prototypes of the Talgo 0 and Talgo I trains. that did not have a commercial use and later they built the Talgo II, the first of these trains that operated in regular passenger services.

Renfe Talgo

All Talgo trains have seats in Turista and Preferential class, they have a cafeteria, video and music.

Renfe Trenhotel: This is a high-end night rail service, a beautiful room between rails with all the comforts of a hotel and with the advantages of traveling by train. It is specially designed to reach your destination at night, being able to take advantage of sleeping and waking up at the destination train station first thing in the morning.

There are also seats in Economy class and Preferente class, and all passengers have cafeteria services at their disposal.

If you travel in the cabin instead of in a seated place, you get the comfort of being able to travel as a couple or as a family in the same cabin, being received by the crew who, in addition to welcoming you and the keys, ask the time at who want to wake up.

There are Grand Class cabins, where you can find both a means of travel and complete accommodation, being able to choose between a single and double Grand Class cabin. It has a complete bathroom with a shower included, a toiletry bag and even items of lingerie. Passengers who have a Grand Class ticket have access to the club room of the station of origin and press of the day. This class is where you will find the greatest comforts and the largest beds, there are ergonomic seats, folding tables, interphones to communicate with the staff, etc. For people with reduced mobility there are adapted cabins.

In the Preferred Bed cabins you can also choose between a single and a double, its users also have a sink, a telephone to communicate with the crew on board and can also enjoy the club room and the daily press.

In the cabins of Cama Turista there is a restroom and you can travel in Turista Señora or Turista Caballero, if you want to travel in a group, train tickets must be purchased for all the beds in the cabin.

These trains make national and international departures.

Renfe Avant: These are high-speed trains but designed for medium and short journeys, with them they take advantage of the advantages of high speed to serve nearby towns with very short travel times, however their speed is somewhat lower than that of AVE trains.

Renfe Avant

The Avant trains are born after the AVE trains, for a short time they were known as Iris, although they were soon renamed Avant, they stopped having a cafeteria and all seats were for a single class. With the high-speed lines that were emerging, the Avant trains became popular throughout Spain.

Renfe Media Distancia: These are regional trains converted into medium distance trains.

Renfe Media Distancia

Renfe Altaria: Altaria trains are responsible for day and long-distance rail services, they do not reach the speeds that AVE trains reach, but they are also considered High Speed trains and can run on the same tracks as the AVE. Its predecessor is the Talgo 200.

Renfe Altaria

The Altaria trains began to circulate from June 10, 2001, being an improvement compared to the Talgo trains. You can travel on Altaria trains in Turista class and in Preferente class.

Main Classes

The two main classes in which you can travel in most of the trains of Renfe Operadora are the Economy class and Business class.

The Economy class is usually more economical, although occasionally there are offers that lower the price of seats in Business class seats.

The advantages of travelling in Business Class instead of in the Economy class are that you have a greater space between the seats, they are in turn more ample, you have access to the club room in the station of origin, you have plugs in each seat and you get a newspaper and a food service in the seat, although these conditions may vary depending on the route, schedule or type of train in particular.

Main train stations

Whether for its size, the high number of passengers or for historical and artistic value, these are some of the main train stations in Spain, which also host High Speed ??AVE trains:

Madrid Puerta de Atocha train station: It is the busiest train station in Spain, where more passengers take a train every day. It serves AVE, Long Distance (Alvia, Altaria and Intercity) and Medium Distance (Avant) trains. It was inaugurated in 1885 and it immediately began to receive a large number of travellers. In 1892, the railway station expanded and became known as Estación de Mediodía. It was modernized in 1992 with the aim of making it bigger with the arrival of High Speed.

Madrid Chamartín train station: The second most important station of Madrid and it connects the capital with the north of Spain, it serves AVE trains, Long Distance trains (Altaria, Alvia, Estrella, Trenhotel, Talgo and Intercity) and Medium Distance trains (Avant and MD).

Barcelona Sants train station: It is the main train station of Barcelona, ??inaugurated in 1979 and it is along with Puerta de Atocha one of the most important train stations, due to the high number of passengers and trains that make their departures and arrivals there. Along this station run AVE, TGV, Avant trains, Long Distance trains (Alvia, Alaris, Euromed, Talgo, Estrella and Trenhotel), Medium Distance trains (Intercity, Regional Express, Regional and MD) and trains of “Cercanías” (commuter trains).

Málaga María Zambrano train station: The main railway station in Málaga, named after the philosopher María Zambrano since 2007, was formerly called Málaga Término. It receives high-speed trains such as AVE and Avant, Long Distance trains (Alaris and star), Medium Distance trains and trains of “Cercanías” (commuter trains).

Sevilla Santa Justa train station: the main station in Seville and one of the busiest railway stations, along with Puerta de Atocha in Madrid and Barcelona Sants. It was inaugurated in 1991. It serves AVE City, Avant, Long Distance trains (Alvia and Talgo) and Medium Distance trains (MD and Avant).

Zaragoza Delicias train station: This station is also one of the most frequented in our country. It was inaugurated in 2003 and it receives AVE, Alvia, Avant trains, Long Distance trains (Estrella and Trenhotel), Medium Distance trains (MD, TRD , Regional, Intercity, regional Express) and trains of “Cercanías” (commuter trains).

Useful information about the services of RENFE Operadora

Hand luggage

On trains you can carry up to 3 pieces of hand that do not occupy altogether more than 290 cm. and the largest of them can not exceed the following dimensions: 85 cm high x 55 cm wide x 35 cm deep, the sum of the weight can not exceed 25 kg.

Each passenger must take charge of their luggage, avoiding inconvenience and without generating danger or damage.

Commonly, as carry-on luggage, any item of clothing and personal items such as suitcases, backpacks, briefcases and the like is considered, but hand-carried chairs and folded baby carriers and musical instruments properly stored in their cases not exceeding following dimensions: 30 cm wide x 120 cm long x 38 cm deep. Finally, bicycles folded or disassembled inside their sheath are also considered hand luggage as long as their dimensions do not exceed three by more than 1802 cm, but in the trains of Conventional Average Distance, Metric Width and commuter rail it is not necessary that Folded bicycles go inside a holster.

Special luggage

It is the baggage of the passengers that by its dimensions or other issues is not considered hand baggage, as it is the case of golf bags and ski equipment, in any case, each passenger can only carry a special baggage like hand luggage and must always be properly sheathed or bagged.

Traveling by train with Animals

You can travel with animals on trains, although the conditions vary according to the type of train.

In AVE trains, Long Distance trains, Medium Distance trains and Avant it is allowed to travel with small pets as long as the rest of passengers do not oppose, obviously the passenger must be responsible for their animal and the inconvenience or damage that could cause The animal must go with its corresponding documentation in good hygienic, sanitary and security conditions.

For small pets we refer in this case to dogs, cats, ferrets and birds that are not farmyard, whose weight does not exceed 10 kg.

A maximum pet allowed per passenger and must be in a cage or carrier or other similar items that have devices to contain and eliminate waste produced by the animal, whose measures do not exceed 60 cm wide x 35 cm long x 35 cm wide.

On Medium Distance trains, access to domestic animals can be limited in case of passenger saturation.

All guide dogs can travel on any type of train and always free of charge in accordance with current legislation.

In the Cercanías trains it is also allowed to transport small domestic animals if the other passengers do not oppose, however in this case it is not necessary to take the pet in a cage or carrier, but they must go at least on a leash and if they are dogs they must wear a muzzle. You can limit your transportation on some trains, schedules and stations.

On most trains, animals will need a special ticket for animals.