Spain’s new low-cost high speed train launches with €5 offer after Covid delay

It was supposed to launch in time for Semana Santa last year but thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown, Spain's new low-cost, high-speed route between Madrid and Barcelona was stopped in its tracks long before its inaugural journey.

Spain's new low-cost high speed train launches with €5 offer after Covid delay
Spain's new low-cost high speed trains are called Avlo. Photo: Renfe

Now, a year since Renfe first offered cut price tickets on its brand new bright purple trains, the rail operator has a new date for the launch.

Named Avlo – presumably to reflect that they are a low cost version of the more upmarket Ave trains – the route will launch on June 23th.

The operator is offering cut price tickets of €5 for journeys between June 23rd until December 11th for those who book before January 31st.

And for those people who bought tickets last year for trips that they were never able to take, Renfe are offering the opportunity to swap them for new tickets at no extra cost.

Once the initial bargain offer is over the price will vary between €10 and €60 for the 621km (386 miles) journey between Madrid and Barcelona.

Ticket prices will be at least 25 percent cheaper than the current service between Madrid and Barcelona and would operate not from Barcelona-Sants station in the centre of the Catalan capital but from a new hub in El Prat de Llobregat, a satellite town near the airport.

The new trains will be easily noticeable as the streak across the countryside between Spain's two biggest cities as they have been painted in Renfe's signature purple colour. They also have a silver strip running along the top and are adorned with turquoise and orange decorative stripes. And the doors have been given a bright, Easyjet-style orange finish.

Renfe announced back in February 2018 that it was planning to launch this low-cost alternative to its fleet as a means of getting more Spaniards off the roads and onto the train tracks.

The initial route of the trains will be from Madrid to Barcelona, with five trains going in each direction every day.

Each train has a 20 percent more capacity than current AVE trains because they have taken out the Preferente carriage and the dining car.

The current AVE service hurtles between the two cities in under three hours reaching a speed above 310 km/h.

The route was inaugurated in 2008 and competes with flights between the two cities  but tickets cost an average of €98 each way, although cheaper deals are available to savvy travellers who book in advance.

The new budget service is designed to attract a younger generation who generally make the journey by coach, explained Spain’s transport minister when the route was announced.



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Covid deaths in Sweden ‘set to rise in coming weeks’

The Public Health Agency of Sweden has warned that the number of weekly Covid deaths is set to rise, after the number of people testing positive for the virus rose for the sixth week running.

Covid deaths in Sweden 'set to rise in coming weeks'

According to the agency, an average of 27 people have died with or from the virus a week over the past three weeks. 

“According to our analyses, the number who died in week 27 (July 4th-July 11th), is more than died in week 26 and we expect this to continue to grow,” the agency wrote in a report issued on Thursday. 

In the week ending July 17th (week 28), 4,700 new cases of Covid-19 were registered, a 22 percent rise on the previous week. 

“We are seeing rising infection levels of Covid-19 which means that there will be more people admitted to hospital, and even more who die with Covid-19,”  said Anneli Carlander, a unit chief at the agency. “The levels we are seeing now are higher than they were last summer, but we haven’t reached the same level we saw last winter when omicron was spreading for the first time.” 

While 27 deaths a week with for from Covid-19 is a rise on the low levels seen this spring, it is well below the peak death rate Sweden saw in April 2020, when more than 100 people were dying a day. 

The number of Covid deaths recorded each week this summer. Source. Public Health Agency of Sweden
A graph of Covid deaths per day since the start of the pandemic shows that the current death rate, while alarming, remains low. Photo: Public Health Agency of Sweden

Carlander said that cases were rising among those in sheltered accommodation for the elderly, and also elderly people given support in their own homes, groups which are recommended to get tested for the virus if they display symptoms. The infection rate among those given support in their homes has risen 40 percent on last week. 

This week there were also 12 new patients admitted to intensive care units with Covid-19 in Sweden’s hospitals.  

The increase has come due to the new BA.5 variant of omicron, which is better able to infect people who have been vaccinated or already fallen ill with Covid-19. Vaccination or a past infection does, however, give protection against serious illness and death.