After months of delays, the first direct high-speed rail link to connect Paris with Barcelona was opened on Sunday.
The joint project from France’s state rail operator SNCF and its Spanish equivalent Renfe will see two TGV (high-speed train) services run between the French capital and the Catalan city each day, with a journey time of just under six-and-a-half hours.
Although this is only around 20 minutes quicker than before, passengers will now no longer need to change services, while journey times will be cut further to five hours and 35 minutes when a new section of high-speed rail track is opened between Perpignan and Nîmes in France in 2017.
There will also be daily services from the French cities of Lyon, Toulouse and Marseille.
Tickets will cost from 59 euros one way between Paris and Barcelona and have already proved popular with more than 30,000 sold, according to SNCF, which expects to see around a million passengers use the service in 2014.
In the pipeline since 2008, the new cross-border services were originally scheduled to begin in the first half of 2013, but were delayed due to a number of technical problems.
According to SNCF, this was largely down to the difficulty of adapting its trains to run on Spanish track, while Renfe had similar problems in preparing its trains for operation in France.
“It took 18 months to get it right," said Jean-Yves Leclercq, SNCF’s director for Europe.
The project saw the construction of a new high-speed rail line in Spain between Barcelona and Figueres, near the French border, at a cost of 3.7 billion euros, while SNCF spent between five and ten million euros on upgrades to its trains.
Date created : 2013-12-15