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Spain AVE Renfe high-speed train route
Photograph: Markus Mainka /

Could high-speed trains soon run all the way from the UK to Portugal?

The rapid expansion of Spanish rail operator Renfe could redraw Europe’s rail maps

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

It’s an exceptionally exciting time to be a fan of rail travel in Europe. From the ever-expanding network of night trains to swish new high-speed routes, the continent’s rail network is arguably in better health than ever. 

And Europe’s rail renaissance isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The expansion of Spanish rail operator Renfe could soon totally rejig the European rail map – featuring new routes that go all the way from the UK to Portugal. That’s right: one train route spanning pretty much the entirety of the European continent!

As mapped out by journalist Paul Luckman in Portugal News, a London-Lisbon route is far more than just a pipe dream. Not only has Renfe already announced ambitious plans to get new Madrid-Marseille and Barcelona-Lyon lines up-and-running this year, but it’s also apparently got a direct Barcelona-Paris Line in its longer-term sights.

And Renfe might not stop there. The operator has apparently applied to use London’s Paddington station and the Channel Tunnel. In other words, a direct train link between Spain and the UK could be on the cards.

Then there’s exciting news within the Iberian Peninsula, too. With Portugal announcing a load of high-speed routes set to run the length of the country, Renfe could feasibly run trains from Barcelona to Madrid, then over to Santiago de Compostela and down to Vigo, Porto and Lisbon.

A UK-Portugal route could theoretically go from London to Lisbon via Paris, Lyon, Barcelona, Madrid, Vigo and Porto. Which sounds pretty cool, right?

Now, we should note that all this is far, far from certain – or even likely. A heck of a lot of work would have to be done across pretty much all legs of the route before it becomes a reality. But given Renfe’s current ambitious plans for expansion, it’s certainly a possibility that the rail network in Europe could soon span even further. 

Did you see that these are all the European sleeper trains we can’t wait to ride in 2023?

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