Liberalization of the railway sector

New operators in the market

The deregulation of the railway sector has meant different operators gaining access to the General Interest Railway Network.The first step was aimed at transporting goods to, later, be extended to passengers.

If we take a look at the landscape of our tracks, we can see that freight trains from various operators have been in use for years. As of this financial year, they can now also be used for passenger services, thus providing users with a wider selection.

The aim is to stimulate and optimise the use of the General Interest Railway Network (Red Ferroviaria de Interés General; RFIG) and ensure the quality and punctuality of the service, facilitating the access of new operators to the railway infrastructure and thus offering users the possibility of choosing between different operators and prices. This should lead to an increase in supply through competition, not only between operators, but also between different modes of transport, both for goods and passengers.



The most recent step has been the deregulation of passenger train operations.

In April 2019, the draft Modification of the Network Statement 2019, which contained the aspects that will govern the deregulation of commercial passenger services in the RFIG, was sent to the National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC) and railway operators for their comments.
The Network Statement detailed the characteristics of the capacity allocation system of both entities, with the aim of enabling interested parties to provide nationwide passenger services from 14 December, 2020, as established by European regulations.

The preferred mode of access is through framework agreements, in an orderly and gradual manner. This figure, which will guarantee access to the network for periods of ten years, provides railway companies with greater legal assurance so that they can make the significant investments associated with the start of a commercial operation.

Furthermore, Adif and Adif Alta Velocidad have established objective criteria for capacity allocation, based on promoting the greatest use of available infrastructures, in an objective, transparent and non-discriminatory manner.

Having analysed the available legal instruments, the Framework Capacity Offer formula has been prioritised, in accordance with EU Regulation 2016/545, to facilitate operators' access to the RFIG. However, any candidate may request capacity independently of this procedure.

The framework agreements present three options or packages (A, B and C) depending on the number of tracks or trains per day, and will last for a period of ten years. This will enable at least three railway undertakings to operate optimally and thereby implement the deregulation process being promoted by the EU's fourth railway package.
The lines on which the packages are structured are the following:
  • Madrid-Barcelona-French border and Valencia-Barcelona
  • Madrid-Levante (Valencia and Alicante)
  • Madrid-Toledo-Seville-Málaga
In this process, Adif and Adif Alta Velocidad have made a global proposal for a 60% higher capacity than the one in use: 189 trains per direction per day, compared to 119 in the benchmark set for 2029.

In order to achieve this supply, Adif and Adif-AV have been preparing a more effective and efficient railway operation system than the current one, which will improve both the operation of the infrastructure manager itself and the railway companies, thus achieving a greater and more competitive proposal of railway services for society.


The next step was the approval of the new Network Statements of the two entities in July 2019 in order to, from that moment on, receive the framework capacity applications for the provision of passenger rail services, a procedure that was closed with the submission of six valid applications in the first stages of November 2019. On 27 November, 2019, the Board of Directors of Adif Alta Velocidad issued the resolution through which Renfe Viajeros, Intermodalidad de Levante, and Rielsfera were the pre-awardees of framework capacity in the aforementioned corridors.

On 11 May, 2020, the Framework Agreements were signed with the respective operators, after the mandatory report by the CNMC, which at all times ensured the fairness and objectivity of the process.