Australians often look at the high-speed trains of Europe and Asia with envy and now we've got one more reason to be jealous.
Spain's state rail operator Renfe is launching a new, budget bullet train between Madrid and Barcelona with tickets just €5 ($A7.80).
The train will launch on June 23 with four return services daily travelling the 500 kilometres between the two Spanish cities. Travelling at up to 330 km/h, the 438-passenger train will take just 90 minutes to cover the distance during the fastest services. Most services will have additional stops along the way and take about three hours.
Renfe said in a statement that demand for the service has been huge, with 100,000 tickets sold in a single day, with the largest number of tickets (31 per cent) sold for the first month of the train's operation.
While the €5 tickets were part of a launch special, coinciding with Renfe's 80th anniversary, the regular prices will still be relatively cheap, ranging from €10 to €60 for a standard journey. The Avlo trains feature just a single "Standard Class", unlike other trains on Spain's network, which typically feature a first class carriage.
French-backed Ouigo, a rival operator, also plans to launch budget high-speed train trips on the Madrid-Barcelona route in May, offering its first 10,000 return tickets for only €1.
The Renfe service, which was originally scheduled to launch in early April, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spain has been one of the worst-hit countries in Europe by COVID-19, with more than 2.5 million cases and close to 60,000 deaths.
The country is currently in a state of emergency due to the resurgence of the virus, after relaxing restrictions and allowing tourists to flock in over the European summer.
Spain has the world's second-largest high-speed rail network, with 3330 kilometres of track across the country. While this pales in comparison to China's huge 35,000 kilometre network, it is slightly larger than Japan's (3041 kilometre). The latter country was the world's first to create a dedicated high-speed rail network, more than 50 years ago.
Meanwhile, Australia can only dream of high-speed, comfortable train travel. While the concept has been under consideration since the 1980s, multiple attempts to gain traction have come to naught.
Most recently, a $20 million federal government study released in 2013 found a 1700-kilometre network joining Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane could be built at a cost of $114 billion. It would allow passengers to travel from Melbourne to Sydney in three hours for about $100.