In Barcelona we are in no hurry to get a train to Toulouse back on track
The mayors of Toulouse and Barcelona want to revive a direct train line between the two metropolises. But on the Spanish side, we are dragging our feet. Explanations.
For three and a half years the train has stopped running between Toulouse and Barcelona. Suspended during the Covid, the connection was canceled in 2021 by the former Renfe-SNCF consortium. The two operators never gave each other the means to ensure the success of a line which suffered from inadequate timetables, high prices and very limited frequencies (one daily journey in each direction).
Two years after his burial, the mayor of Toulouse Jean Luc Moudenc, traveling to the Catalan capital and the vice president of the metropolis of Barcelona Ernest Maragall, asked SNCF and Renfe to reopen this line “We ask them to give priority to the rail link between Toulouse and Barcelona, which will allow exchanges between companies, tourists or people traveling to one or the other capital,” said Ernest Maragall.
“We do not exclude anything for the future”
If the two railway operators, now competitors, have not yet responded to the appeal of the two cities, a return of the direct train is not on the agenda. The SNCF says it and repeats it: the only viable line to Spain is the one that connects Paris to Barcelona. On the Spanish side, it’s not much more encouraging. In December, Renfe obtained authorization to operate its TGVs on the Madrid-Marseille and Barcelona-Lyon lines. These two links will be put into service by next summer according to Renfe. “It will rather be at the end of the year” tempers Clément Beaune, Minister of Transport. But the Spaniards have no plans in Toulouse. “To operate in France, you need to apply for certification by line. We have not made any requests for the Barcelona Toulouse line,” explains Antonio Carmona, spokesperson for Renfe. “We are not ruling out anything for the future but for the moment it is not relevant”.
Jean-Luc Moudenc revives the Toulouse – Barcelona relationship
If the incumbent operators do not want to relaunch the train, will the solution come from another operator? Unlikely. The Government of Catalonia regularly indicates that it wishes to partner with a private operator to offer trains from Barcelona to Perpignan, Montpellier and Toulouse. But nothing materialized. When asked about it by the Dépêche du Midi, the Catalan president Pere Aragonès got in touch: “our railway company has yet to find its model for developing lines towards Occitania”.
The Toulouse-Barcelona connection is therefore at an impasse to the chagrin of all those who have to travel between the two cities. “There is a real infrastructural problem. Is absurd! regrets Olivier Benielli, director of the Barcelona campus of the Toulouse Business School. There is no shortage of potential for a direct rail link: in addition to all journeys by car, between 8 and 10 buses make the return journey between Barcelona and Toulouse each day. A direct rail link could also serve Carcassonne, which is very popular with Catalan tourists.