Renfe Avlo train at Madrid-Atocha station.Pablo Monje
Renfe suffered net losses of 241.8 million euros in the first half of 2021, 15.2% more than those registered in the same period of the previous year, despite the fact that the number of travelers increased by more than 10 million in those months compared to 2020. The railway company transported 144.9 million passengers, 7.7% more, but still far from the 261 million who traveled in the first half of 2019, according to data from the public company to the that this newspaper has had access to.
The company chaired by Isaías Táboas suffered the worst year in its history in 2020 with record operating losses of 479 million euros, compared to the 107 million euros it earned in 2019, and a collapse in the number of travelers, which fell to half (-47.8%), due to mobility restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
From January to June of this year, the operator’s income, including state subsidies for Cercanías and Media Distancia (regional) services, amounted to 1,427 million euros, 6.87% lower than those obtained in the same period of the previous year and far from the 1,783 million registered in the first half of 2019.
These results prove the gradual recovery of rail traffic after the lifting of mobility restrictions suffered by citizens of different autonomies and which were in force especially in the second quarter of 2020. However, trips are recovered more quickly on the routes of Cercanías, those made by travelers to go to work or in their daily routine, than in Long Distance. Thus, while the number of commuter passengers grew by 11% in the first six months, that of the AVE plummeted by 15%, according to the report on transport published by the National Institute of Statistics (INE). June data already pointed to some recovery, with passenger rail traffic increasing by 14 million compared to the same month last year. Commuter passengers went from 20.3 to 32.4 million, while those on the AVE almost multiplied by four to exceed one million.
All Renfe divisions lost money in the first half, except for Equipment Rental, which earned 11 million. Renfe Viajeros, the main source of income, lost 205.3 million euros, 16.4% more than in the same period of the previous year. Merchandise lost 14.6 million and Maintenance, 21 million.
Renfe Merchandise multiplied its operating losses by ten to 44.5 million (-3.7 million in 2019). That unit still does not raise its head, and successive plans to energize it with the search for a private logistics or industrial partner have turned out to be a fiasco. In 2020, it once again lost ground to other means of transport, adding 14.3 million tons transported, 16.1% lower than the previous year.
It should be borne in mind that Renfe has faced competition from Ouigo since May 10, the low-cost high-speed service of the French SNCF, which operates the Madrid-Barcelona line. Faced with the commercial offensive, Renfe has had no choice but to reactivate the launch of Avlo, its own AVE low cost, whose premiere in April 2020 was suspended due to the pandemic, and which started on June 23. Added to the competition is the new dynamic rate structure – based on demand in each time slot – launched by the public operator last June. Both maneuvers seek to increase the number of travelers, but will also have an impact on revenue.
For its part, Adif also suffered losses of 284.95 million euros in the first six months of the year, which means cutting by 12.3% the red numbers of 325.19 million recorded in the same period of the previous year , an improvement that the railway infrastructure manager attributes to the increase in the payment of railway charges, which are progressively recovering as mobility increases.
The combined turnover of its two companies —Adif and Adif Alta Velocidad— was 440.93 million euros, 2% less than in the first half of last year, and corresponds in its entirety to the collection of these fees , on the rise once the pandemic restrictions have been lifted. Specifically, the collection of fees for the use of the lines of the General Interest Railway Network (RFIG) during the first semester increased by 1.02%, due to the increase in traffic by 4.22%.