RENFE confirmed that they are receiving thirty units of the Talgo Avril, a train capable of up to 360 km/h on existing rail lines in Spain, Portugal and France. This means that this new train, which will enter into operation this November, could achieve Paris-Madrid in a little over three hours.

Bearing in mind that this is city centre to city centre it will be faster than Paris Madrid by air. Work it out for yourself. How long does it take to travel to the airport, parking, check-in, waiting, boarding and then getting back to the city centre on arrival? No contest, the Talgo Avril will be faster and a lot more comfortable. This new train, with its 380 kph capability is a game changer for rail competing with travel by air within Europe.

Two weeks ago I wrote about RENFE starting the process of entering onto the Portuguese rail system. At that time the new Talgo Avril had not been announced. The Talgo Avril can operate on CP rail which is what is known as the Iberian gauge. The high-speed rail gauge is being developed, but this train can use either based on its ability to change the width of its wheels. This means they can be used in practically the entire Iberian railway network capable of travelling at up to 360 km/h on any gauge. On the 1,668 mm-Iberian gauge, the limit is 220 kilometres per hour. The Talgo Avril, however, will hit speeds of up to 360 kilometres regardless of track gauge.

Coming to Portugal soon?

It’s hard, if not impossible, to imagine that RENFE don’t plan to bring these ultra-high speeds into Portugal, completing the northern Europe to Portugal network of a real alternative to air travel. Reports vary about the progress of the Madrid-Lisbon high-speed rail link. The Lisbon to Porto route which is now being upgraded to high-speed rail standards has to be a target for RENFE. CP don’t have a train, even on order, that can match the speeds of the Talgo Avril.

According to the Portuguese Government, the connection between Lisbon and the Spanish border could be fully operational in 2024.

Once completed this could mean, and I do stress could mean Paris-Lisbon in less than five hours. Concorde revolutionised travel between northern Europe and New York. This remarkable new train could revolutionise the connections between northern Europe and Portugal. By air northern Europe to Portugal is between two and a half and three hours. That’s without getting to the airport check-in etc. This is serious competition to air travel.

It can’t get any faster than this

The Talgo Avril has to represent the fastest it can get with wheels on the rails. The next step would have to be maglev or similar, and that’s years away from being constructed for any distance. The world’s fastest non-Maglev train currently in service is China’s Fuxing Hao CR400AF/BF, it can reach 400 kph, only a little faster than the Avril. Japan’s bullet train achieves 360 kmh, the same as the new Talgo Avril.

The Talgo Avril holds the world speed record on the Iberian gauge at 360 km/h. This speed was reached on September 7, 2022, on the Ourense-Santiago de Compostela high-speed line, in Galicia. LE TRAIN, France's leading private high-speed train operator, and Talgo, signed an agreement last month in Bordeaux for the future development of a fleet of high-speed trains adapted to the French market and based on the leading high-speed Avril platform.

Apart from its very high-speed capability, the Talgo Avril has a low floor, so no step-up at the station. The train and the platform are at the same level. Much easier for wheelchairs, prams or baggage. Due to their high capacity and light overall weight, Avril trains minimise energy consumption and are highly efficient. They will reduce greenhouse gas emissions which makes the Talgo Avril the most sustainable mode of transport. This train is a game changer.

The possible routes

RENFE have not, as yet, announced which routes the new train will serve, but there are obvious candidates. Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Malaga are almost certain. Linking Paris to Barcelona and Madrid must be high on their list, and there are no legal or technical obstructions. Linking Barcelona to Lisbon and the existing high-speed network in the north through to Porto are subject to the approval process and rail improvements that are already in process. Madrid Lisbon is a route waiting for the rails etc to be completed. Linking London to Paris is already being applied for. I personally believe that RENFE will apply to operate Lisbon to Porto, CP haven’t even ordered trains for this route, RENFE have them, and much faster trains.

The ‘bullet train’ has arrived in Europe and with it new horizons for European travel.


Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy. 

Paul Luckman