Passengers can travel free on specific short and medium-duration train journeys in Spain until December 31, 2022.
The measure was approved by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in July and came into force on September 1.
The scheme applies to multi-ticket journeys on cercanias (suburban services) and Media distance (medium-distance lines of less than 300 km), managed by the national rail operator Renfe.
While the program is also open to international tourists, it caters primarily to commuters, with high-speed trains and single tickets not included in the offer. The initiative was designed to mitigate the impact of the cost of living crisis and reduce the country’s carbon footprint by 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 cercariae and 20 € for Media distance trips. These costs will be reimbursed for at least 16 visits during the four months.
Spanish Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda Minister Raquel Sanchez tweeted that almost 100,000 people used Renfe on the first day of free access, a 50% increase in passengers on the same day in 2019.
In Madrid, about 100,000 usuarios have used the Cercanías de @Renfe en el primer día de la gratuidad, a 50% more than a día como hoy in 2019.
Agradezco el esfuerzo de trabajadores y trabajadoras desplegados en la red que han ayudado a que el system funcione con normalidad. pic.twitter.com/jN18JUSi1x
— Raquel Sanchez (@raquelsjimenez) September 1, 2022
She added in another tweet:
“The new passes are useful to help the middle and working classes and to reclaim public transport as a more sustainable alternative for daily mobility.”
The government gives an example of the savings below:
“A traveler who uses the monthly pass for the classic Badajoz-Merida medium-haul route, which costs €153.20 per month, will save €612.80 during the four months the measure applies. If the traveler currently uses the ten coupons (€31.80 per subscription), the saving of four months in the Badajoz-Mérida is €127.40, and it will be able to make unlimited journeys.
The scheme, which includes several other cuts in public transport, is expected to cost the government more than 200 million euros.
Germany launched a similar initiative earlier this year, offering €9 tickets for a month’s 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 program and that 10% of journeys made with the €9 key replaced a trip that would otherwise have been made with a car.
The program is said to have saved around 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, with people swapping cars for public transport.
Meanwhile, the UK is being hit with another round of rail strikes, set to take place on September 15 and 17, as well as an increase in fares.