Trains - High-speed long-distance trains AVE

AVE Train © Renfe
AVE Class 102 'Pato' (duck) Train


It is no exaggeration to say that the AVE (Tren de Alta Velocidad Española), which started in 1992 in time for Sevilla's Expo, changed the face of Andalucía. Suddenly, you could get to Madrid from Sevilla in two hours 20 minutes, without either having to endure an airport, or sit on an ordinary train for between six and nine hours.

The AVE trains run on their own special dedicated lines, which were decided to be in accordance with the international standard gauge (distance between the inside of the two train rails) of four feet eight and a quarter inches (or 1,668 millimetres).

The Spanish broad-gauge had been adopted in the mid-19th century to enable bigger and more powerful steam engines to traverse terrain that was tougher than that found in England and France. Unfortunately, little by little all European countries adopted the standard-gauge, leaving Spain disconnected. 

In the mid-1980s it was decided to build a Nuevo Acceso Feroviario a Andalucía (NAFA) that avoided the difficult Despeñaperros gorge. Work begin on a route for a mixed passenger and freight broad-gauge line. With the decision to have the line open by the 1992 Sevilla Expo it was decided that the NAFA should be international gauge. This was so that the French and German rolling stock and systems could be purchased without modification. That decision was taken on the on 9 December 1988 by the Council of Ministers. Even though reported in El País the following day it went largely unnoticed, but it was a decision of mayor change that had been resisted for 150 years. 

The service were frequent and reliable, and they famously offered a refund if your train was more than five minutes later than its scheduled arrival time. This refund offer has since been watered down in the era of low-cost tickets.

In tests on 23 April 1993, train set number 100-015 reached a speed of 356.8 km/h, a Spanish record for a non-modified train. This test allowed a theoretical increase of the top speed on the Madrid-Sevilla route from 270 km/h to 300 km/h in 1994,

In 2007 the line from Málaga to Córdoba via Antequera was opened, making it possible to travel from Málaga on Costa del Sol to Madrid and later Barcelona.

The trains run at target top speed of 300 km/h for operational reasons although the train units are certified to 330 km/h and 350 km/h.

There are three different "train sets" in operation. The most popular in Andalucía are the Class 102 introduced in 2005. The two power-car and 12 passenger-car train has earned the nickname "pato" (duck) based on the aerodynamic shape of the fronts areas. Since May 2007 the trains travel with a target top speed of 300 km/h.

The newer Class 103 were introduced in 2006. They are eight-car sets which incorporate driver and passenger-integrated cars at either end. They were ordered primarily for the Madrid-Barcelona route, but their distributed power system has proved efficient for inclines so they have also be allocated to the Madrid-Málaga route. They are certified to run at 350 km/h but for operative reasons also travel with a target top speed of 300 km/h.  RENFE have 26 Class 103 AVE units.  

The older Class 100, built by Alstrom of France as a variation of their TGV technology, were the first to be introduced to Spain in 1992 for the Madrid-Sevilla route. The entire fleet was refurbished in 2007. The sets are made up of two power cars with two motorised bogies each and eight passenger cars with shared bogies. The units are also now used on the Avant fast-medium distance service, such as from Málaga to Sevilla. RENFE have 26 Class 103 AVE units.   

For technical information on AVE Train Sets, click here.




It is advisable to buy tickets in advance. This can be done on the RENFE website or by an online agent whose website is fully operational in English. have partnered with ACP Rail for online RENFE tickets and reservations.  You can also order tickets by phone, at the station itself, or at a RENFE appointed high street travel agent for a small commission.

You can buy your ticket up to 60 days before your travel date. In the first two cases, you are either given a booking reference, which you then use to print out the tickets themselves from a machine at the main station, or you can print them out at home.

If you're travelling at the weekend or on a holiday or puente (long weekend), it is even more important to buy your ticket beforehand as the station may well be extremely busy, and seats may sell out.

Book train tickets on-line

General info

Three classes are available: Preferente, Turista Plus and Turista. The Club class no longer exists.

If you're travelling at a busy time on a crowded train and your journey is a long one or you want the space to work, it might be worth paying the extra for more space and comfort in the Preferente or Turista Plus class.  

Small snack meals and drinks are included with Preferente.

Weekdays there is a trolley cafe service to all seats; and at weekends on some trains snacks might only be obtained from the buffet car in the centre of the train sets.  

The Turista class has seating a "two plus two" format with a central corridor, and the Turista Plus and Preferente are in a "one plus two" format with an off-central corridor.  Most seats are coach style with a drop-down table, while some are facing with central table.  All seats are reserved at the time of the ticket purchase. In the 12-car class 102 sets there are two Preferente cars, one Turista Plus car, one buffet car and six Turista cars.

Since the Turista Plus are actually in a Preferente Car, the only difference is the service, which is basically a newspaper, a drink and a snack box whose value would be about €15 and the stations club lounge.

Free car parking (24-hour single tickets and 48-hour return tickets) at your departure point for Club and Preferente used to be the norm but this now also depends on the ticket unless you have signed up for a Tajeta Renfe + (Renfe Plus Card) 

In all classes you can have headphones for the audio/video service. There is a quiet coach on the train where mobile phone and electronic games are not allowed. Small pets under 10 kilograms may travel in a special carrying case. Bicycles must be demounted and be inside a case whose three dimensions don't sum to more than 180cm.

Each passenger is allowed three suitcase or handbags whose TOTAL weight must not exceed 25kg and the sum of their dimension not exceed 290 cm. Each passenger may carry one 'Equipaje Especial' which could be a golf club bag or a ski bag or a bicycle bag or a musical instrument bag, but if you do then you can only have one other piece of hand luggage whose dimensions should not exceed 55 x 35 x 25 cm (width-height-depth).  These luggage restrictions are no more generous than an aeroplane. In practice they don't tend to be enforced. If you are carrying a lot of luggage, be discrete and arrive at the station half an hour earlier.     

Small bags are placed on the overhead rack, and larger suitcases in the rack at the end of each carriage by the doors. It is wise to arrive at the station half an hour before departure as there can be queues and the platform barrier closes exactly 2minutes before the scheduled departure time of the train. There is a security check, not at airport levels but all suitcases and handbags will need to be put through the X-ray scanner. At the terminus you are permitted to take the trolley onto the platform via the elevator but not at intermediate stations.


AVE - High Speed Train Routes
AVE - High Speed Train Routes

AVE routes in Andalucia

  • Madrid to Cordoba from 1 hr 40 min, every 30-60 minutes
  • Madrid to Seville from 2 hrs 20 min, every 60 minutes, stops at Ciudad Real, Puertollano and Cordoba
  • Madrid to Málaga from 2 hrs 30 min, every 60-120 mins, stops at Cordoba, Antequera and Puente Genil
  • Barcelona to Málaga 
    from 5 hrs 40 min, two services daily, stops at Tarragona, Zaragoza, Cordoba, Puente Genil and Antequera.
  • Barcelona to Seville
    from 5 hrs 25 min, two services daily, stops at Tarragona, Lleida, Zaragoza, Ciudad Real, Puertollano and Cordoba.
  • Valencia to Sevilla  
    from 3hr 50 min, two services daily, stops at Córdoba, Puertollano, Ciudad Real and Cuenca.
  • Seville to Málaga
    from 1hr 55 min, nine AVANT services daily, stops at Puente Genil and Antequera.

AVE Stations in Andalucia 

This page was about High speed AVE train services, also check Fast Long Distance, Regional, and Cercanias (local).