The government has announced that it is to break RENFE, the national railways operator, up into four distinct business groups, and will permit private groups to operate rail services in Spain.
The operation will be complete by July 2013.
Spain currently has three public companies operating its railways: Renfe, the train operator, FEVE, which operates narrow gauge lines and ADIF, which maintains the network. FEVE will be dissolved and its operations passed to Adif and Renfe. Renfe will be split into four distinct companies operating in distinct parts of Spain, and private companies will be able to tender bids to run their own rail services.
Spain has admitted that its railways are run at an annual loss of 447 million euros, and have an accumulated debt of some 21 billion euros.
Madrid says that Spanish rail services need an overhaul, and point out that at least 52 long and medium haul rail services run at only 15% capacity. At least five long haul routes carry an average on just 5 passengers a route.
How will this affect the AVE through Almería? Your guess is as good as mine.
This would be a complete disaster. One only need look at the mess of breaking up British Rail to see how it’ll wind up. Sectorization of RENFE is just a prelude to full privatisation, just as it was with British Rail.
There are inefficiencies in RENFE, but none that can be solved this way, and the actual *operational* subsidy RENFE needs is amongst the smallest of the major European rail systems (<€500m, compared to several billion in the UK). The French system is widely seen as the best in the EU, and works on a single operator model (SNCF), who also handle most of track, signalling and stations for RFF, which is mostly a debt handling vehicle and nominal track owner. A similar approach could easily be adopted for RENFE, and any talk of having to break up RENFE comply with EU law is simply a fig leaf, since SNCF is subject to exactly the same EU regulations.
The restructuring of routes is less severe than the government makes out, and is something RENFE is easily capable of doing if political will can be found to make it happen.
Privatisation will only end up with groups like Alsa buying up route rights and make a fortune off the backs of cattle – sorry – commuters.