Spain announces free rail journeys from September until the end of the year


Where most governments have been sluggish in their efforts to tackle inflation, Spain has blazed full steam ahead with a scheme making some train journeys completely free.

The initiative means passengers will be able to hop across Catalonia, immerse themselves in the architectural splendours of Andalucía or explore the museums and restaurants of the Basque country.

The announcement came on Tuesday, when Spain’s socialist-led coalition government declared that travel across certain parts of the state-owned rail-network, Renfe, would be free from 1 September to the end of the year.

This new arrangement on Renfe routes is in addition to a policy announced last month in which the central government agreed a 30% discount on all public transport, including metros, buses and trams.

The 100% rail discounts will apply to multi-trip ticket journeys on cercanías (commuter services) and media distancia, or medium-distance routes (less than 300km). The measure is mainly aimed at Spanish season ticket holders but tourists could take advantage of it if they bought multi-journey tickets.

“I’d like the people of Spain to know that I’m fully aware of the daily difficulties that most people have,” Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said on Tuesday. “I know salaries cover less and less and that it’s difficult to get to the end of the month.”

The price cuts are being implemented to cushion the impact of inflation and rapidly rising energy prices.

“This measure encourages using public transport to guarantee a safe, reliable, comfortable, economic and sustainable means of doing the daily commute amid the extraordinary increase of energy and fuel prices,” the Spanish Ministry of Transport said in a statement.

Spain isn’t the only European country seeking to reduce public transport costs.

In May, Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national railway company, launched a ticket costing €9 that gives a full month of travel from June until the end of August. Any two stations within Germany can be connected with the deal, so passengers travelling more than 50 miles can save money with a single journey.

And Austria launched its “Klimaticket” (climate ticket) in late 2021. While the morning commute can bite into budgets, the ticket offers journeys at just €3. Designed to encourage Austrians to ditch their cars, the scheme proved extremely popular, with its website almost crashing when the tickets went on sale.

Britons, meanwhile, continue to be weighed down by eye-watering ticket prices. In February it was announced that rail fares would rise across England and Wales by an average of 3.8%. Railfuture, an independent organisation seeking to reform the railways, has suggested that commuters’ annual travel costs will seem insurmountable while fares are hiked up.