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Passengers increasingly let the train take the strain in Spain (on Madrid – Barcelona route)

Image: HSR spain
Demand on the Madrid-Barcelona route has fallen by around 40% since the launch of high-speed rail services last March.

What was Europe’s busiest airport-pair in terms of annual passengers in 2007 has seen demand fall by around 40% since the launch of high-speed rail (HSR) services last March. In 2007 some 4.86 million passenger trips were made between Spain’s two biggest cities, Madrid (MAD) and Barcelona (BCN). Demand had been growing steadily during the previous decade with not even a dip post ‘9/11′.

Chart: Madrid-Barcelona air traffic 1999-2008
Source: AENA

Comparing monthly figures for this year with those of 2007 (before the HSR service started) indicates that the airlines have lost around 40% of their traffic to the AVE rail service.

Chart: Madrid-Barcelona air traffic 2006-09 (Monthly passengers)
Source: AENA

Demand drops off dramatically during the peak holiday season suggesting that business traffic is the key component of this domestic route. A comparison of frequencies operated by the four main players in the market reveals both how flights have been cut due to the introduction of the HSR and how flights are cut due to seasonality.

Chart: Madrid-Barcelona weekly flights (Weekly departures by airline)
Source: OAG Max Online

The difference between Iberia’s frequencies in August 2008 and August 2009 is slightly puzzling but the data is not quite comparing like-for-like weeks in August so it may be related to the precise timings of recognized national holiday periods.

For each of the four periods examined the average aircraft size on the route is between 150 and 160 seats, based on data provided to OAG.


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