Spain and Portugal could finally be getting a high-speed train link

Spanish rail operator Renfe’s plans for expansion could mean trains direct to Lisbon and Porto from Madrid

Liv Kelly
Written by
Liv Kelly
Contributing Writer
Renfe high speed train
Photograph: Shutterstock

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve reported on Italy launching new vintage train routes for tourists and Portugal offering a super-cheap, all-you-can-travel monthly rail pass. And the great European rail revival won’t be slowing down anytime soon, it seems, as we’ve heard on the grapevine that there are plans in place for a brand new high-speed train link between Spain and Portugal. Finally!

A high-speed route to Portugal is officially on the to-do list for Spanish rail operator Renfe, which already has huge plans for expanding its network, according to train expert The Man in Seat 61. After routes into France were confirmed, the company has set its sights on creating rail connections across the border with Portugal. 

A proposed route to connect Madrid and the Basque Country with Lisbon was called off in 2020. Renfe believes there is a huge gap in the market for high-speed trains to Portugal, and hopes to meet the potential demand – perhaps as early as 2024, when Portugal’s first high-speed line is set for completion. The line is set to cut journey times between Badajoz and Lisbon by around two hours.

By 2027, Renfe is hoping to provide services along Portugal’s Atlantic coast, connecting major Portuguese cities with Madrid. However, this part of the proposal is still being designed and would require an initial investment of €15 million to get the ball rolling on the necessary upgrades to infrastructure. 

A couple of technical issues still need ironing out. There is currently a discrepancy between the voltages on the overhead wires on the Portuguese and Spanish railway networks, which will need fixing for Renfe’s plans to go ahead. Plus, the Portuguese signalling system differs from the one used across Europe, so that will need translating. 

It also seems like Renfe's plans have come as a bit of a surprise to Portuguese rail operators. Comboios de Portugal said ‘So far, we have not received any additional information, and therefore, we do not have an official position to declare on this issue.’

Renfe hopes to eventually run two daily services from Madrid, with services to Lisbon and Porto ideally launched by 2030. The designs for all the plans need to be finalised and approved, but still, it all sounds pretty exciting. 

Did you see that the first-ever tourist flight to space took place last week?

Stay in the loop: sign up for our free Time Out Travel newsletter for the latest travel news.

You may also like
You may also like