• Paris to Barcelona (in both directions) is one of the most popular cross-border transport corridors in Europe.
Unfortunately – despite the infrastructure being in place – there are still very few high-speed trains on this route, and these are often very expensive, especially at the last minute.
• However, every day in both directions there is a very reasonable night train connection available as well, with one single change of train in the French border town of Latour-de-Carol.
• The rail services involved in this connection are operated by state incumbents: first SNCF and then Renfe, with both segments of the journey being taxpayer subsidised PSO services.
• Fares can be as low as €49, for the entire journey from Paris to Barcelona – even at the last minute – which is very attractive for budget-conscious travellers who would otherwise drive their cars.
• But WHY is this rail connection not shown on any website or app, and WHY is it not sold anywhere in a single booking transaction?
• If Europe is serious about modal shift to Rail – especially across internal EU borders – when will policymakers finally make all trains available at all ticket vendors?
Passengers first take the night train from Paris to Latour-de-Carol. There, they change onto a Renfe regional train to Barcelona (see the photo above). The total fare can be as low as €49 in a couchette, even at the last minute. This is the kind of price that can easily compete against less sustainable transport modes.
For more details about the whole journey, watch this video on Thibault Constant’s “Simply Railway” YouTube channel.
However, you cannot book this rail connection anywhere in one single place. The small minority of travellers that already know about it have to book the two journey segments separately on two different websites or apps.
“MEPs, Member States, and the EU Commission must finally act to ensure that all cross-border rail connections are made available at all ticket vendors and can be purchased in one transaction – especially those involving taxpayer subsided trains! Sadly, in this specific case, NO ticket vendor can offer it at all!“ALLRAIL Secretary General Nick Brooks
EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean’s current Multimodal Digital Mobility Services (MDMS) legislative proposal – “A Europe Fit for the Digital Age” – should be the ideal opportunity to rectify this kind of broken ticketing system. However, it would only be solved if her original plans from February 2023 are brought back.
By contrast, Mrs Vălean’s newly watered-down MDMS plans from June 2023 will not solve this problem at all.