The July issue of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable (ERT) will include a revised Table 668 showing the new high-speed services to Alicante.
So we can confirm that Alvia services to and from points beyond Madrid are indeed using the high-speed route from Albacete to Alicante. The July ERT shows daily Alvia trains from both Gijón and Santander to Alicante.
It also shows a weekly direct Alvia train from Pontevedra to Alicante. It runs out on Saturdays, returning on Sundays. Pontevedra is a lovely old Gallego town by the Atlantic coast of north-west Spain. This coast-to-coast hop is surely one of the most extraordinary train journeys in Spain.
The Spanish railway authorities today announced that the new high-speed route from Alicante to Albacete will open next week — on Tuesday 18 June 2013. Whereas in other countries the opening of a major new high-speed line would have been trumpeted months in advance, in Spain things are done differently. New rail route openings are pretty common and are often slipped in by stealth.
This new 165-km stretch plugs the last remaining gap in a key route linking Madrid and Murcia.
At the moment, trains bound for Alicante speed from Madrid to Albacete — taking 95 minutes for the 322-km journey. At Alabcete, the trains then change gauge (from the standard west European gauge to the old Iberian gauge which is wider) and then dawdle onward to the coast using legacy rail routes — which are very pretty but darned slow.
That all changes next week. The new line will cut by half the journey time from Albacete to Alicante, bringing the headline time for that part of the journey down to 59 minutes.
The old route via Almansa, Villena and Elda will continue to be served by two trains each day (seven days a week). These are two cross-country Media Distancia (MD) services running Ciudad Real — Manzanares — Albacete — Alicante.
The Madrid to Alicante trains have until now all been Alvia stock. The timetable for the new high-speed services shows AVE trains making a debut on the line. We expect these to include both Alstom and Talgo-Bombadier trains. The timetable allows for eight AVE trains each day from Madrid to Alicante. Some Alvia services are expected to continue, also using the new line. We understand that these are to provide through trains to and from other parts of Spain beyond Madrid.
There is one new station on the new route. It is on the outskirts of the town of Villena, and the station building is an assertively modern essay in glass. It certainly cuts a dash, as indeed do many other newly opened railway stations on Spain’s growing network of high-speed rail routes. The old station in Villena will serve trains using the old route.