On 22 July 2019, the Boards of Directors of Adif and Adif Alta Velocidad (AV) approved the modification of their respective Network Prospectuses (Declaraciones sobre la Red) for 2019, establishing the foundations that will govern the process of opening up the Spanish passenger rail sector to competition, which will take place on 14 December 2020.

Network Prospectuses define the system for awarding high-speed railway infrastructure whereby undertakings with an interest in providing services of this kind may submit capacity applications before 31 October 2019.

Main changes introduced by the modifications to the network prospectus 2019

The key to liberalising high-speed passenger railway services revolves around the infrastructure manager (ie, Administrador de Infraestructuras (Adif) and Adif-Alta Velocidad (Adif-AV)) allocating capacity to the infrastructure.The process involves the infrastructure managers allocating time slots, which are defined in the Network Prospectus 2019, to candidates that have submitted offers. As a result, a specific train will be able to run between two points for a specific period of time.

The initial deadline established in the Network Prospectus to submit applications to operate passenger railway services was 31 July 2019. However, given the enormous interest among candidates currently negotiating alliances and consortiums to compete in the high-speed passenger transport market, that deadline has been pushed back to 31 October 2019.

Undertakings – both railway undertakings and those in the process of obtaining an authorisation to operate as a railway undertaking or a specific qualification – may apply for the capacity that meets their business plan, without being obliged to apply to operate all services or all corridors within a package. They will also be able to apply for the services offered in other packages as they see fit.If capacity applications exceed the capacity available, Adif-AV may apply the priority criteria established in the Network Prospectus. Priority will be given to separate undertakings, in which case it will be necessary to check that they are not part of the same corporate group.

The infrastructure manager (Adif-AV) has designed a capacity offer on the basis of three corridors: 1) Madrid-Barcelona-French border; 2) Madrid-Levante (Valencia and Alicante); and 3) Madrid-Southern Spain (Toledo, Seville and Malaga). In turn, each corridor has been divided into three packages (A, B and C) on the basis of the number of daily services established for each one. As such, Adif offers an overall capacity that is 65% higher than is currently being used on high-speed rail corridors.

Undertakings may sign framework agreements with the infrastructure manager to provide high-speed passenger rail services. Framework agreements contain, as mentioned above, three options, or packages (A, B and C) on the basis of the number of slots per day,; if it is not possible to accommodate all capacity applications received, priority will be allocated according to the use that will be given to the corridors in question over a period of up to 10 years. By doing so, the aim is to encourage the entry of new operators that do not currently have available rolling stock. The three-package structure makes it possible for at least three railway undertakings to operate optimally.Spain's markets and competition regulator, the Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y de la Competencia (CNMC), issued a Report on the proposals made by Adif and Adif Alta Velocidad (Adif-AV), dated 25 June 2019, in which it proposed a 5-year limit (renewable) on the framework agreement for "Package A" with the aim of opening up the market to new railway undertakings progressively. The proposal was not accepted, but the Network Prospectus 2019 does establish the possibility of the CNMC reviewing agreements that have a term exceeding 5 years.

Finally, the amended Network Prospectus 2019 includes three new concepts of capacity allocation model in the new liberalised market: specialised lines, coordinated stations and congested infrastructure. These have been included to streamline the process for liberalising the high-speed passenger rail market:

  • Specialised lines are those that require a capacity optimisation process according to the services for which they were built. Two basic criteria have been established for lines to qualify as specialised lines: the first is that they must allow traffic for routes exceeding 380 km/h; the second is that the trains run at maximum speeds of 300 km/h or higher.The specialised lines are: Madrid-Seville; Málaga-Málaga Switch; Torrejón de Velasco-Valencia Switch; Albacete-Alicante Switch; Madrid-Barcelona-Límite Adif/Figueres-Perpignan Line, and Madrid-Valladolid-Venta de Baños Switch.
  • Coordinated stations are passenger terminals where it is expected that there will be high demand for stationary trains on the tracks. In order not to harm quality of the service, these terminals will need to intensify general coordination among the trains of the different railway undertakings.The following shall be coordinated stations: Puerta de Atocha and Chamartín in Madrid, Valladolid Campo Grande, León, Zamora, Zaragoza Delicias, Lleida Pirineus, Barcelona Sants, Figueres Vilafant, Valencia Joaquín Sorolla, Alacant Terminal, Sevilla Santa Justa and Málaga María Zambrano.
  • As for congested infrastructure, in line with a suggestion made by the CNMC, only the infrastructure that is congested at present is classified as a congested infrastructure: Madrid Puerta de Atocha station and the high-speed rail infrastructure at Madrid Chamartín and Barcelona Sants.