It is now possible to travel from Barcelona to Paris by train in less than six and a half hours.
Jean-Louis Conte, a passenger on the first train, said: “It’s a very good thing. We gain time – and it’s also a way to bring two countries closer in a very effective way.”
But Antoni Prat, another customer of the new service, complained: “We’ve been waiting for this for 20 years now. The Spanish government still works like it’s in the last century.”
The line was inaugurated by Spanish Public Transport Minister Ana Pastor and French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier in the city of Perpignan, southern France.
The cross-border trains had been scheduled to launch in the first half of the year, but technical problems held up the start date.
France’s SNCF said it needed extra time to adapt its trains to run on Spanish track. While Spain’s RENFE reportedly had similar issues preparing its trains to operate in France.
There will be two daily services between Barcelona and Paris, covering the journey in 6 hours and 25 minutes.
Other routes offered by the service include Madrid-Marseille (7 hours), Barcelona-Toulouse (3 hours) and Barcelona-Lyon (5 hours).
The project, which was approved in 1992, currently has to run slower on a section of track between Perpignan and Nimes, but RENFE said that is due to upgraded in the next several years.
That would bring the duration of the Barcelona to Paris journey down to 5 hours and 30 minutes.