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Sustainable mobility going backwards with the diminution of cross-border trains between France and Spain

Since 2013, Spanish public rail operator Renfe and French SNCF have been operating services together between France and Spain through Catalonia. However, on 11 December 2022, this cooperation ended and from now on only two trains a day in each direction will cross the border through the Perthus Tunnel

The Barcelona-Lyon and Madrid-Marseille connections, operated by Renfe, will not run anymore. The only remaining services in the Mediterranean corridor are the Paris-Barcelona connection, operated by SNCF alone. The services had all been suspended during Covid-19 but had progressively been reinstated, with the exception of the Barcelona-Toulouse connection, which was definitively abandoned. 

One of the reasons for the suspension of these lines is the difficulty for operators to be allowed access to the French rail infrastructure, as administrative obstacles have been imposed. The services that will be maintained are in any case insufficient to provide a convenient and competitive low-carbon alternative to short and medium haul flights or private cars that are dominant in cross-border mobility.  

The new high speed Perthus Tunnel link between France and Spain amounted to a massive public and European investment of 3500 million € but is barely used today. Operators should take advantage of this infrastructure to offer reliable rail services connecting neighbourhood regions and its main cities (Barcelona, Toulouse, Perpignan, Figueres, Girona, Montpellier). 

Night trains between Paris and Barcelona were also suspended in 2013 when the high speed line was open despite being a sustainable alternative to planes for long-distance trips. On the Atlantic corridor, the Paris-Madrid night connection was suspended as well and there are currently no direct trains connecting the two capitals. The night train between Lisbon and Hendaye, at the French border, was also suspended during the pandemic and the service has not been recovered, despite the call of Comboios de Portugal to re-activate the connection.

French and Spanish Civil Society Organizations are calling on national governments and rail operators of both countries to maintain the existing services, reinstate the Barcelona-Toulouse services, reopen the Paris-Barcelona, Paris-Madrid and Lisbon-Hendaye night trains and increase cross-borders regional services between Perpignan and Figueres. Offering sufficient cross-border rail connections is essential to give citizens the option to choose a greener mobility in the fight against climate change and to ensure economic activity.

Read or download the press release here.