Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s announcement not to charge tickets for four months from September aims to help families and reduce car use.
Spain’s Short and medium distance trains free this autumn
Short and medium distance train journeys in Spain will be free of charge for four months from September, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced on Tuesday (12 July). All commuter trains (Cercanías and Rodalies) and mid-distance regional lines covering journeys of less than 300km (Media Distancia routes) run by the national rail operator Renfe will be free from 1 September to 31 December.
The 100% discount is only available on multi-trip tickets, not singles. Travel on other services, including long distance trains and those operated by other companies, will not come under the measures. This could mean free train travel between cities like Barcelona and Seville or Madrid and Bilbao – if you are willing to commit to buying a season ticket.
A 50% discount on Renfe train tickets was already introduced in June in an effort to help out commuters. But, after reviewing the financial state of the country, Prime Minister Sánchez decided to make journeys completely free for a certain period.
Why is Spain making train travel free?
The free train tickets are aimed at reducing the impact of the cost of living crisis in the country. Germany introduced a similar measure, which is still in effect, from June to August with a discounted nationwide public transport pass. It means travellers can enjoy unlimited use of local and regional services for just €9 a month.
But Spain has decided to go one step further by making train travel on its Renfe services free between September and December this year.
“I am fully aware of the daily difficulties that most people face. I know that your salary is getting less and less, that it is difficult to make ends meet, and that your shopping basket is becoming more and more expensive,” Sanchez said. “I am going to work my skin to the bone to defend the working class of this country.”
Spain’s windfall tax is funding the subsidised travel
The free rail tickets will be funded by a new windfall tax on banks and energy companies that have profited from rising interest rates and energy prices. The new levy is set to be introduced in 2023 and could generate up to €7 billion in two years. It will also be used to build 12,000 new homes and fund youth scholarship programmes.
Which Renfe transport tickets will be free?
Renfe displays on its website the list of subscriptions benefiting from this government measure, in which all the conditions can be found.
MEDIUM DISTANCE (MD)
This government-driven grant will subsidize 100% of all non-individual tickets as of next September 1, including Renfe’s monthly Media Distancia subscriptions.
The following routes are included in the 100% Public Service Offer bonus, usually have lengths of less than 300 kilometers:
- Regional Voucher 10: For passengers who make up to 10 round trips without distinction in 45 days, always with the same route.
- 10 single card: For passengers who make up to 10 round trips without distinction in 45 days, always with the same route.
- Free 10 card: For passengers who make up to 10 round trips without distinction in 45 days, always with the same route.
- Regional monthly pass: For unlimited trips every month, always with the same route.
- Simple monthly card: For unlimited trips every month, always with the same route.
- 40 free monthly card: For unlimited trips every month, always with the same route.
MEDIUM DISTANCE TRAVEL
Medium Distance Madrid: Renfe’s Medium Distance train services connect Madrid with cities and towns in other autonomous communities such as Andalusia, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha, Valencia, Castilla y León and Cantabria. Some routes are covered by Avant trains, which allow you to quickly reach the capital from nearby cities such as Toledo, Segovia, Valladolid or Ciudad Real. More information here.
Medium Distance Barcelona: Catalonia has a network of Medium Distance services that not only facilitates transport between Catalan towns and cities such as Barcelona, Lleida, Tarragona, Manresa, Reus, Figueres or Girona, but also places of interest in Aragon and the Valencian Community such as Zaragoza and Valencia.
Middle Distance Seville: The capital of Seville has direct medium distance trains to all Andalusian provinces. Likewise, Andalusia is connected through these rail services with other nearby autonomous communities such as Madrid, Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha.
Medium Distance Valencia: The Valencian Community has a direct Medium Distance connection with the autonomous communities of Murcia, Castilla-La Mancha, Madrid, Catalonia and Aragon. Thus, from the city of Valencia you can travel to Barcelona, Zaragoza, Albacete, Alicante, Cuenca and Teruel.
transport experts believe measures could worsen train service
Mobility experts warn that the service may worsen if frequencies are not improved and subway users are subtracted – in large cities some routes with the Cercanías overlap – and buses, which are still in a deep passenger crisis.
"We want to alleviate the situation of citizens, who are suffering a lot from the increase in the price of fuels. The initiative is an opportunity for people to change their car for more sustainable transport and, by the way, to lower Spain’s energy bill," explains César Ramos, PSOE deputy and spokesperson for mobility.
Renfe estimates that it will affect 75 million trips (26 million trips in Madrid, 22 in Barcelona, and the rest, in Media Distancia or other suburban centres). "This has to lead us so that, when the year ends, there are more users [of Cercanías] and with that it will be easier to improve the service." According to Renfe, "it is a conservative estimate based on 2019, the last prepandemic," but they expect them to be even more.
The Ministry of Transport estimates that the measure will benefit regular users, especially in September, when mobility levels recover with the start of the school year, universities, and the return from vacation of the majority of workers. "This figure is expected to be even higher due to the knock-on effect of users towards public transport thanks to this unprecedented measure," says Raquel Sánchez’s department. Neither the ministry nor Renfe know how much the initiative will cost the State. To avoid occasional travel, the measure excludes the single round-trip ticket.
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