Renfe is preparing for the greatest of its revolutions when in 10 years the autonomous communities that so wish can tender their own Cercanías and Media Distancia services, in accordance with the European regulations for the liberalization of public railway services. To this end, the company has begun a complete administrative reorganization, which affects not only the organization chart, but also the resource (trains) and personnel policy. With these changes, the public company wants to avoid the danger of dismemberment when the new regional Cercanías operators appear that, together with any other rail transport company —national or foreign—, compete for a public service that Renfe now provides exclusively, reported to this newspaper sources from the board of directors of the railway company that met this Monday.
The matter is of such depth that it has forced the modification of the current Contract-Program that Renfe has with the State 2018-2027, (with the option of five additional years), which contemplates first of all that the competent authorities (the State or the communities with jurisdiction over rail transport) will be able to tender 3% of the services and lines, measured in terms of economic billing over the total as of 2026. It also provides that all public services will be tendered for their provision to from January 1, 2033, in accordance with EU regulations.
The remodeling, which was the focus of the meeting of the board of directors, intends to face an uncertain scenario, since the model of the new tenders forced by the community law of liberalization is not known, nor the transfers of assets (such as trains) that will take rigged. In accordance with the new regulations, the Catalan Generalitat or the Basque Government will have the power to tender from 2033 on the entire Cercanías service in their territory, in a tender to which both Renfe and regional public operators such as, for example, may apply. , Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya or public companies (such as the French SNCF) or private. “In any case, Renfe’s objective is to compete in all the tenders and win them, because we are the reference operator and we want to continue being so,” say council sources.
To operate in 2026, these new tenders, which are very complex and have never been carried out in Spain, should start their process next year, in 2024, although no major changes are expected until full liberalization in 2033. The liberalization of Cercanías It is a continuation of the commercial services (AVE and Long Distance), where there is already competition in Spain since 2021, and in which other companies such as Ouigo (SNCF) and Iryo operate in competition with Renfe.
In Spain, the General State Administration currently has powers in most of the State. But the Generalitat de Catalunya also has powers today (the transfer of Rodalies although the service continues to be provided by Renfe) and they are negotiating the transfers to the Basque Government and the Generalitat Valenciana. The Junta de Andalucía has also shown interest in creating new OSP (public service obligations) rail services that link the main cities of the region. The historical autonomies such as Catalonia and the Basque Country are not limited to requesting competition over the tenders for the provision of the service recognized by community legislation, but also require the Spanish Government to transfer assets of both infrastructures, such as roads and stations , now in the hands of the public company Adif, as well as the trains owned by Renfe.
More than two million travelers
Renfe is aware that the change will mean a complete transformation of the company, from all areas: in the social area, more than two million passengers use the Cercanías and Media Distancia trains every day; In the economic sphere, the company earns more than 2,000 million euros annually from ticket sales and from the subsidies it receives from the Administrations (at this time, the General State Administration); and in labor, since almost half of the Renfe workforce is directly or indirectly employed in the provision of these public services.
For this reason, the company already approved on January 10 a new administrative, resource and personnel organization of the Public Services Area, with the aim of improving dialogue with regional and local Administrations and with the State. With the new model, all the territorial areas of Cercanías and Media Distancia will have departments for the provision of services, operations, human resources, management control and facilities. The main novelty is precisely the creation of this Facilities department in all territorial areas, which will make it possible to decentralize a function, the contracting of local improvements, which is currently carried out at the central level.
With the reorganization, more autonomy is granted to local managers so that they can provide quick solutions to specific problems in each of the 11 Cercanías nuclei, six Metric Gauge Cercanías (the old Feve), five Conventional Medium Distance areas and others five High Speed areas of Medium Distance-Avant.
The liberalization of public rail services is underway throughout Europe, although its progress is very different depending on the country, with the United Kingdom and Sweden standing out in the vanguard. Renfe wants to be present in the process with operations such as the acquisition of 50% of the Czech operator Leo Express, which allows it to operate in three more European countries (Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland) and have the resources and licenses to access the market German. In addition, it has announced that it is going to operate a Cercanías line in France.
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