Spain trains: everything you need to know

spain trains

Spain trains are a great way to get from one destination to another. In fact, Spanish trains are an increasingly cost-effective alternative to planes, particularly if you’re going a relatively short distance or if you’re traveling in the one of the high-speed long distance trains.

Nowadays several companies compete to offer the best train service of the country.

But which one suits better your travel plans?

Have a look at a complete guide on how to purchase your train tickets online.

Below you can find a list of all the railway companies operating in Spain and the routes that they cover.

Railway companies operating in Spain

Who operates trains in Spain?

The deregulation of the railway sector has led to the different operators gaining access to the Spanish railway network. After decades of monopoly, the state-owned company Renfe Operadora competes with several private operators.

Here is a list of the current railway operators in Spain:

  • Renfe. It’s the Spanish state rail operator, which until recently operated a monopoly in Spain. It also operates through Avlo, its low-cost subsidiary.
  • OUIGO. It’s French SNCF’s low-cost service high-speed trains, offering long-distance services on core routes of the Spanish rail network.
  • iryo. It’s operated by ILSA, which is part of a consortium made up of Spanish airline Air Nostrum, Globalvia (a Spanish multinational transport infrastructure company) and Italy’s main train operator Trenitalia.

Now… You may be asking yourself, which one is better?

Well, all of them are valid options. It’s just a matter of availability (as you’ll see below, Renfe still offers the widest range of routes) and price (Renfe tickets are still the most expensive ones).

So, do your research and compare fares here and there! And there’s a great site for that.

Purchase your train tickets online with the best booking platform.

Spain trains: high-speed long distance routes

With a 3,100km track network the Spanish high-speed trains operate on the longest high-speed network in Europe. Running at speeds of up to 310 km/h this extensive network allows for fast connections between cities in Spain.

As you can see, the central hub of the high-speed long distance routes in Madrid is the train station Puerta de Atocha, although other routes depart from Chamartín train station. In Barcelona these trains depart from the Barcelona Sants train station. And in Seville, they depart from Santa Justa train station.

Renfe

Currently Renfe has the following AVE routes:

  • Madrid Atocha – Calatayud- Zaragoza – Lleida – Tarragona – Barcelona – Girona – Figueres
  • Madrid Atocha – Guadalajara – Calatayud – Zaragoza – Tardienta – Huesca
  • Madrid Atocha – Ciudad Real – Puertollano – Córdoba – Sevilla
  • Madrid Atocha – Ciudad Real – Puertollano – Córdoba – Puente Genil – Antequera – Loja – Granada
  • Madrid Atocha – Ciudad Real – Puertollano – Córdoba – Puente Genil – Antequera – Málaga
  • Madrid Atocha – Cuenca – Requena – Valencia – Castellón
  • Madrid Atocha – Cuenca – Albacete – Villena – Alicante – Elche – Orihuela – Murcia
  • Madrid Chamartín – Cuenca – Requena – Valencia
  • Madrid Chamartín – Cuenca – Albacete – Villena – Alicante
  • Madrid Chamartín – Segovia – Valladolid – Palencia – León
  • Madrid Chamartín – Zamora – Ourense
  • Barcelona – Tarragona – Lleida – Zaragoza – Ciudad Real – Puertollano – Córdoba – Antequera – Granada
  • Barcelona – Tarragona – Lleida – Zaragoza – Ciudad Real – Córdoba – Antequera – Puente Genil – Antequera – Málaga
  • Barcelona – Tarragona – Lleida – Zaragoza – Ciudad Real – Córdoba – Sevilla
  • Valencia – Cuenca – Ciudad Real – Puertollano – Córdoba – Sevilla
  • Valencia – Requena – Cuenca – Madrid Chamartín – Valladolid – Burgos
  • Alicante – Albacete – Cuenca – Madrid Chamartín – Zamora – Ourense
  • Alicante – Albacete – Cuenca – Madrid Chamartín – Valladolid – Palencia – León

Apart from AVE trains, Avlo is Renfe’s low-cost high-speed long-distance train service operating 5 long distance routes:

  • Madrid Atocha – Guadalajara – Calatayud – Zaragoza – Lleida – Tarragona – Barcelona – Girona – Figueres
  • Madrid Chamartín – Cuenca – Requena – Valencia
  • Madrid Chamartín – Cuenca – Albacete – Villena – Alicante
  • Madrid Atocha – Ciudad Real – Puertollano – Villanueva de Córdoba – Córdoba – Sevilla
  • Madrid Atocha – Ciudad Real – Puertollano – Villanueva de Córdoba – Córdoba – Puente Genil – Antequera Santa Ana – Málaga

In addition to this, Renfe has 2 other types of high speed trains:

  • Avant trains travel at the same speed as AVE one, but they are designed for short trips to interconnect nearby destinations (e.g. from Madrid to Segovia, Valladolid, Cordoba, Sevilla, Toledo and from Barcelona to Zaragoza, Tarragona, Santiago, Girona).
  • Alvia train services share the high speed lines with AVE trains, but then branch off in to conventional tracks, or continue beyond the end of the high speed lines, in order to reach their final destinations.

OUIGO

French SNCF’s low-cost high-speed OUIGO trains now operate on 3 routes:

  • Madrid Atocha – Tarragona – Zaragoza – Barcelona
  • Madrid Chamartín – Valencia
  • Madrid Chamartín – Albacete – Alicante

OUIGO Spain services will gradually be extended to other high-speed lines in Spain.

iryo

iryo is the brand from railway operator ILSA. The company is jointly owned by Italy’s main train operator Trenitalia, Spanish airline Air Nostrum, and the infrastructure investment fund Globalvia.

It operates on the following routes:

  • Madrid Atocha – Tarragona – Zaragoza – Barcelona
  • Madrid Atocha – Córdoba – Sevilla
  • Madrid Atocha – Córdoba – Málaga
  • Madrid Chamartín – Cuenca – Valencia
  • Madrid Chamartín – Cuenca – Albacete – Alicante

They are also expected to run between other destinations in the near future.

Spain trains: Media Distancia routes

The Media Distancia (regional trains) and Avant trains cover the whole country and are solely operated by Renfe. These trains are also very modern and quite punctual but they are not as fast as the long distance ones.

This map shows you in detail all the routes network in Spain.

The following routes are currently available using the Avant trains:

  • Avant Madrid – Segovia – Valladolid
  • Avant Málaga – Córdoba – Seville
  • Avant Madrid – Ciudad Real – Puertollano
  • Avant Madrid – Toledo
  • Avant Barcelona – Tarragona – Lleida
  • Avant Calatayud – Zaragoza
  • Avant Ourense – Santiago – A Coruña
  • Avant Barcelona – Girona
  • Avant Barcelona – Figueres Vilafant
  • Avant Valencia – Requena Utiel

Spain trains: Cercanías routes

The Spain for commuter rail services or suburban trains are called Cercanías (or Rodalies in Barcelona).

Operating from many major cities, these local routes travel from main city center stations to suburbs and exurbs, and serve primarily to bring workers and students into city centers from more provincial areas. They either cover large cities (including Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Seville and Valencia) or small regions (Asturias, Murcia).

These local trains are only operated by Renfe.

The following maps show you in detail all the routes corresponding to a certain geographical area of Spain:

This article is part of a complete tutorial about train travel in Spain where you can read all the information you need to organize your train journeys around the country.

Here is a complete summary of all the guide:

1. Spain trains: everything you need to know
2. How to purchase Renfe train tickets online
3. 7 tricks to get cheap train tickets in Spain
4. Renfe: Spain’s state-owned railway company
5. AVE trains: Renfe high-speed trains in Spain
6. The Combinado Cercanías ticket
7. The Renfe Spain Pass
8. Avlo: Renfe’s high speed low cost trains
9. OUIGO trains: SNCF’s high speed low cost company
10. iryo: Spain’s low cost high-speed rail operator
11. 7 packing tips to comply with your train baggage allowance

Scroll to Top