Passengers will be able to travel free-of-charge on select short and medium-length train journeys in Spain until December 31, 2022.
The measure was approved by Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in July, and came into force on September 1.
The scheme applies to multi-ticket journeys on cercanias (commuter services) and Media Distancia (medium-distance routes under 300km), run by national rail operator Renfe.
While the scheme is also open to international tourists, it is mainly aimed at commuters, with high-speed trains and single tickets not included in the offer. The initiative has been designed to mitigate the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and also reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, encouraging people to swap their cars for public transport.
Passengers can obtain a rail pass via the Renfe app or at station ticket offices. Once they have selected an origin/destination station, a QR code will be generated which can be used as a ticket.
They must pay a deposit of €10 for cercanias and €20 for Media Distancia journeys. This fee will be refunded when at least 16 trips are made within the four-month period.
Spain’s minister for transport, mobility and urban agenda Raquel Sanchez tweeted that almost 100,000 people had used Renfe in the first day of free access, a 50 per cent increase on passenger numbers on the same day of 2019.
En Madrid, casi 100.000 usuarios han utilizado las Cercanías de @Renfe en el primer día de la gratuidad, un 50% más que un día como hoy en 2019.
Agradezco el esfuerzo de trabajadores y trabajadoras desplegados en la red que han ayudado a que el sistema funcione con normalidad. pic.twitter.com/jN18JUSi1x
— Raquel Sánchez (@raquelsjimenez) September 1, 2022
She added in a further tweet:
“The new passes are useful to help the middle and working classes and to recover public transport as a more sustainable alternative for daily mobility.”
The government gives an example of the savings below:
“A traveller who uses the monthly pass for the conventional Badajoz-Merida medium-distance route, which costs €153.20 per month, will save €612.80 during the four months the measure is in force. If the traveller currently uses the ten voucher (€31.80 per subscription), the savings of four months in the Badajoz-Mérida is €127.40 and he will be able to make unlimited journeys.”
The scheme, which includes a number of other discounts on public transport, is expected to cost the government over €200 million.
Germany carried out a similar initiative earlier this year, offering €9 tickets for one month’s worth of travel on local and regional public transport networks.
The Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) reported that 52 million tickets were sold during the three-month scheme, and that 10 per cent of journey made with the €9 ticket have replaced a journey that would otherwise have been made with a car.
The scheme is said to have saved approximately 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, with people swapping cars for public transport.
Meanwhile, the UK is being hit by another round of rail strikes, set to take place on September 15 and 17, along with increasing fares.