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Take the Train to Spain (from Portugal)? Yes, you can - and fast trains are coming!

The Train to Spain is Not What You Think.... But there is good news!

Trainto spain

Portugal and Spain not only share open borders but the Iberian Peninsula. So, you would think that train links would be abundant and fast. And, you would be wrong. Since 2020, Lisbon and Madrid are no longer connected by direct rail, and the cross-border routes fell from 4 to 2. But, the good news is there are some huge changes on the way.

Welcome aboard as we embark on a look at traveling from Spain to Portugal by train today and what to get ready for tomorrow. The connection between Spain and Portugal via rail has a long and storied history, with plans for future developments poised to change cross-border travel. While the direct train link between the capitals of the two countries was discontinued in 2020, recent proposals and initiatives aim to enhance connectivity and streamline transportation between these neighboring nations. Spain has focused on building impressive intercity links and networks while Portugal boosted its lines from North to south, but cutting 30% of its rural network.

New Plans!

With the new Luis de Camões Airport will come a rail link from Lisbon to Madrid via Evora and Badadjoz, with the construction of a Third Tejo Crossing.

The government announced a plan for a new high-speed rail connection between Lisbon and Madrid, which will reduce travel time between the two capitals to just three hours by 2034. The current journey between Lisbon and Madrid involves three train changes and over 9 hours of travel on h=three trains. The new Lisbon-Madrid route will be shortened to six hours in the next three years.

The first sectionsto be completed is the connection between Évora and Elvas, which is expected to enter service in early 2025. This connection will also reduce the journey between Lisbon and Elvas to just two hours in the same year. It will be one of the most important modernizations of the Portuguese railway, as part of the railway to Elvas is one of the most obsolete in the network, not even having electrical connection along the route. When the entire project is completed, the connection between Lisbon and Elvas, which crosses the country from coast to interior, will be made in one hour.

Three parts of the line remain to be built, two on the Portuguese side and one in Spain, connecting Talayuela to Toledo. In Portugal, it is necessary to connect Évora to Poceirão and Poceirão to Lisbon, with the latter connection requiring the construction of a Third Tejo Crossing (TTT) to connect Lisbon to Barreiro by rail, reducing the distance between the two cities to just ten minutes, and will be crucial to access the new Lisbon airport to be built in Alcochete.

No Longer Running:

COVID led to Spain's Renfe canceling two international routes: All Sud Express service was suspended in March 2020 and never resumed. The same then happened to the Trenhotel Lusitania overnight train.

What is Running Now:

The Celta train offers a direct connection between Porto and Vigo (Galicia). Operated jointly by CP-Comboios de Portugal and Renfe, this service provides a convenient and efficient way for travelers to journey between these two vibrant cities. Running twice daily in each direction, the Celta train completes the journey in 2 hours and 20 minutes, making it a nice option for travelers. Along the way, passengers can see the lush green landscapes of the Minho region, with stops at Viana do Castelo and Valença do Minho.

In addition to the Celta train, another scenic rail journey is the Comboio Raiano. Operating between Entroncamento in Portugal and Badajoz in Spain, this route offers great views of the Tejo River Valley and the Alto Alentejo's cork forests. With four daily connections, the Raiano train provides travelers with the only opportunity to travel from Lisbon to Madrid by rail. To do that, one gets a train from Lisbon to Entroncamento, then takes the Raiano to Badajoz, and connects to a Renfe train to Madrid. From the historic fortifications of Elvas to the charming towns and rapids along the Tejo, a Raiano journey offers a glimpse into the natural heritage of the region. But it takes 10 hours, versus 90 minutes by air: Even though  Lisbon's airport is busy and crowded, while Madrid's massive airport is far from the city.

What is Coming?

Renfe, the Spanish railway operator, is planning to reintroduce its own high-speed train services to Portugal. This project aims to launch high-speed services as early as 2024. The high-speed line between Badajoz and Lisbon, now under construction, promises to significantly reduce journey times, offering travelers a new and sustainable transportation option. Renfe is building new engines for just that route that will run on the velar on both sides of the border.

And, by 2027, Renfe sees extending its services along Portugal's Atlantic coast, linking major Portuguese cities including Porto with Madrid.

Back in Portugal, ongoing efforts to modernize and improve the country's rail network are underway. Construction on a new high-speed line from Lisbon to Porto is set to start in 2024, with completion expected by 2030. Additionally, the refurbishment and reintroduction of historic rolling stock are both enhancing service quality and expanding capacity on existing rail lines. Tourists love the classic Schindler and Sorefame rail cars, and the cost is a fraction of buying new ones.

With these developments on the horizon, the future of rail travel between Spain and Portugal looks promising. As plans progress travelers can look forward to faster, more efficient, and more convenient cross-border transportation options, ushering in a new era of connectivity  between these neighboring countries.

Traveling by train from Spain to Portugal is more than just a means of getting from point A to point B – it's an experience that allows us to connect with the essence of these two nations. And it is scenic but slow, it is about to get fast and useful. 


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