A one way ticket from Barcelona to Madrid is more than 100 euros, which is much more expensive than in the rest of Western Europe. It is even more expensive than the Eurostar, which required to dig a massive tunnel under the sea.

I am wondering if somebody knows the economical reason for this.

  • 1
    Eurostar prices start at 50 euros and can reach 200 euros for a one-way ticket. That's really not a good example.
    – Vince
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 23:10
  • 6
    It's not expensive if you book early. It's also not more expensive than e.g. Amsterdam–Paris.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 9:30
  • Simply take the bus. Although I generally don't like traveling long distances in buses, in Spain it is alright: Highways are not as crammed as in Germany, and buses are comfortable.
    – feklee
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 11:56
  • 2
    Incredible! it looks that somebody from the Spanish Government or the Spanish train society read this post and decided to act accordingly: the ticket prices have been decreased: diariocordoba.com/noticias/cordobalocal/…
    – S4M
    Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 21:17
  • 5
    This question appears to be off-topic because it's not about travel and it ask for opinions. I don't think it fits SE format
    – Geeo
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 16:01

4 Answers 4


There are political reasons behind this and I believe that this isn't the appropriate website to discuss this.

Anyway, you can find cheaper rail and air tickets for the BCN-MAD route. Try with Rumbo for instance. This website returns prices for airlines and Renfe trains. I've tested for you some dates and you can fly for less than 30 euros and go by train for less than 40 euros. For example, on february 21th go by air is 27 euros (Vueling) and go by rail is 32 euros (renfe).

So, the response is: going by high speed train is very expensive but "slow" train has a reasonable price.

  • 3
    You are making me curious about the "political reason". I know I can use other ways to travel but I was still shocked when seeing the train prices.
    – S4M
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 23:02
  • 1
    Well, you have a 600km train trip for 32 euros :) The political reasons are hard to explain, but may be you know that Barcelona is the capital of a region that is in process to independize from Spain. Also the high-speed train was a political decision, not a real need for most Spanish.
    – Ivan
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 23:13
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    Ivan: What becomes of your political reasons when you change Barcelona by Sevilla? The distance from Madrid is similar, and I think that the prices are equally high. Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 20:29
  • The same @MarcelC. High Speed train in Spain (AVE) is not constructed by real needs. In the case of the Sevilla-Madrid line the reason was that Andalucia is the territory with more % of votes to the socialdemocratic party in the government in 1992. After that a conservative and centralist goverment (Aznar) decided that "have to" join all big cities with the capital (Madrid) even if there are no passeger traffic. To mantain all this the prices are big and with the crisis the budget has been reduced and now in Spain there is a big debate about these kind of high-speed/-cost transportation.
    – Ivan
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 22:21
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    Sorry for the long comment. Only add that Spain has now the biggest high-speed train infrastructure in the world, only after China (that's really big!). If you are really interested in the problem, please use a translator with this website: tribunas.racc.es/es/ave_en_espanya
    – Ivan
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 22:24

Generally speaking, train travel on high speed trains is luxury travel. For budget travel in Europe, take the plane. Or the bus if you have time. Neither planes nor buses are as comfortable and convenient as modern high speed trains.

The economic explanation is related to the following points:

  • The price is determined by supply and demand.

  • Turnover is the number of passengers times the price they pay. If you have fewer customers, you will need higher prices to achieve the same goal.

In the case of the Eurostar, there has been and there still is a fierce competition: trains, planes, ferries. As a result of this competition, a lot of ferry routes have been closed after the opening of the Tunnel. The Eurostar also has a huge catchment area. Just look at Paris and London. In terms of inhabitants that's nearly half Spain! Add Brussels, parts of Belgium, the Netherlands and the Lille region. Don't forget that the tunnel is not used and paid for by Eurostar alone. There are also the shuttles for cars, trucks and buses.

In the case of Spain there is less competition. What's the alternative? The distances are rather long and buses slow. The plane? The airports are out the cities and the quality of Iberia & co ... umm, well ... And as I said above, the catchment area is smaller for these AVE trains. And don't forget, the infrastructure had to be built too in Spain!


I've travelled by train in many countries in Europe, and I can say that the Spanish AVE is the most luxurious train I've ever been on.

It's very fast, the railway and the trains are very new, and travelling conditions are good. For example, at the AVE, you get a 100% refund if the train runs more than 5 minutes late. Try that at the TGV in France or the ICE in Germany. However, chances are very low that you will get your money back. I don't remember the source right now, but reliability is more than 99%, far higher than any other high-speed train.

So, in short: you get what you pay for.

A cheaper alternative between Madrid and Barcelona is to take the night train. It departs Madrid 22.30, arrives Barcelona 7.05, and appears to cost around €45 for an adult in Turista class. I'm not sure if that is with or without night accommodation.

  • If Germany or France would also have only one rail they could also had that kind of reliability ;-)
    – greg121
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 10:02
  • 1
    Sure, there are lots of reasons why the AVE is so reliable; but that's also why they're so expensive. They also don't have snow.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 10:22
  • I believe Japan has similarly impressive results. It doesn't look like there are lots of reason, only a big one: A dedicated network for high-speed trains (in both cases with a different gauge).
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 22:24

It's because it is a High Speed train running at 300km per hour. The only way of getting it cheap is via the Renfe website approx 1-2 months in advance. Then you can get up to 60% discount.

  • 1
    I'm not sure I agree this is the only reason. As S4M points out, the Eurostar is cheaper, and that's ALSO a highspeed train (225km/hr if I recall correctly). But useful mention of the website (I'll update your answer with a link)
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 22:08
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    @MarkMayo completely agree with you, France had 300 km/hour trains for like 20 years now, so saying the train can go at that speed is not exactly a valid excuse for overpricing the fares.
    – S4M
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 22:09
  • 1
    I agree, but that is how Spain works unfortunately. There used to be cheaper trains, that were slower, but since AVE was in place... no cheap rides :(
    – sumi
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 22:11
  • High speed trains in France are also more expensive than regular trains were. Also, unlike Spain, France did not have the problem of choosing between a non-standard gauge limiting interoperability or building a completely new infrastructure.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 22:21

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