Next April 21 will be fulfilled 30 years since the first commercial trip of a high-speed rail service in Spain. During these three decades, the world in general and the railway industry in particular have changed profoundly. Before the arrival of the coronavirus, AVE users reached 22.3 million.
The routes along which trains circulate every day at speeds exceeding 300 kilometers per hour have multiplied to reach 3,726 kilometres. A milestone that has turned the Spanish network into the second largest in the worldonly behind the Chinese.
Similarly, from being a monopoly operated solely by Renfe, high-speed rail transport began a liberalization process last year. When it concludes, Spanish users will be able to choose between four commercial brands in the corridors that link Madrid with Barcelona, Levante and Andalusia: AVE, Avlo, Ouigo and Iryo.
In the midst of this maelstrom of changes, one element has remained constant during these 30 years. Specifically, a logo. The one with the AVE. Until the arrival of Avlo, the product low cost of Renfe, all the trains that crossed the different Spanish high-speed routes had done so with the same logo. Such has been its resistance that the distinctive of this service has even survived the renewal of the brand that Renfe suffered in 2005.
Change resistant logo
During that year, the company underwent the deepest transformation in its history. For the first time since its creation in 1941, the infrastructure and the operation of services were broken up into two independent companies. At that time Adif was born, which was left with road and infrastructure management.
Renfe went on to become a railway operator. A point where we find another curiosity, since the name Renfe has its origin in the National Network of Spanish Railways. Instead, Adif kept the company CIF of the original Renfe.
Now, the time has come for the AVE logo to be updated. Renfe has launched an ideas contest to renew the image of the brand. The operator is studying its adaptation to the new context, for which it has published a tender for the redesign and updating of its logo. A decision in which liberalization has had a lot to do.
That AVE does not become a generic
With the arrival of the competition, each of the participants must value their virtues. Just as confusions when naming Renfe or Adif are still common among users, despite the fact that 14 years have passed since their separation, the AVE concept is on its way to becoming a generic.
So much so that with the arrival of Ouigo it is not uncommon to hear users refer to this company’s service as “the French AVE”. In its beginnings, the first brand studies carried out by Renfe came to identify AVE with a private company that performs better than the public operator.
In the latest assessment of the Renfe brand, carried out on the occasion of the launch of the company as a railway operator in 2005, placed its value at 500 million euros. In it, both AVE and Cercanías appeared as the elements that contributed the most value.
Don’t say Renfe, say AVE
Now, Renfe is launching this renewal process of the AVE brand to reverse the trend of recent years. The goal is for the AVE commercial brand to take center stage. That users use AVE and Avlo to refer to the services they use while Renfe loses prominence to remain as a merely corporate brand.
One Way similar to the one that Telefónica undertook in its day in 1995. The telecommunications company chose Movistar as the brand for its mobile phone business. Later, it became the reference for the company’s products and services while Telefónica remained as the corporate name.
The arrival of Ouigo and Iryio will force Renfe to put all the meat on the grill. With the entry of two operators and the start-up of Avlo, users of the high-speed train they will go from having only one option to four. A very profound change for Renfe in which it will need to get rid of all past burdens in order to face new competitors.
In this way, the success in renewing the AVE brand image will play a fundamental role in being able to face two new proposals that arrive in Spain without loads and with great flexibility. After 30 years of operations, the Spanish operator’s high-speed services have become its key asset. The decision made by Renfe will go far beyond a simple logo, will be a key asset to compete in rail liberalization.