Spain extends free rail scheme until end of 2023

ByTravelling For Business

January 9, 2023
Spain is extending its free rail travel scheme until the end of 2023 and expanding it to include intercity bus services next month.

Spain has announced the extension of its free rail travel scheme until December 31, 2023, and plans to expand it to include intercity bus services starting next month.

Launched in September last year, the rail scheme offers passengers the opportunity to travel free-of-charge on selected short and medium-length train journeys in Spain. This extension applies to multi-ticket journeys on cercanias (commuter services) and Media Distancia (medium-distance routes under 300km), operated by national rail operator Renfe.

Renfe has issued nearly 2.5 million free Cercanías, Rodalies, and Media Distancia passes, along with 50% discounts on Avant services since the scheme’s launch, with 230,000 passes renewed since December 29.

While the initiative is open to international tourists, its primary focus is on commuters, excluding high-speed trains and single tickets from the offer. The scheme aims to alleviate the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and reduce the nation’s carbon footprint by encouraging the use of public transport over private cars.

Passengers can obtain a rail pass through the Renfe app or at station ticket offices, generating a QR code for use as a ticket after selecting an origin/destination station. A deposit of €10 for cercanias and €20 for Media Distancia journeys is required, refundable after completing at least 16 trips within a four-month period.

Starting from February 1, free travel will also extend to intercity bus services on the Madrid-Barcelona route, building upon the existing 50% discount implemented since September. It is anticipated that this discount will be applicable to all long- and middle-distance journeys.

Spain’s Minister for Transport, Mobility, and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez, highlighted the environmental and financial benefits of the bus scheme, estimating savings of more than 350 million litres of fuel and the prevention of one million tons of CO2 emissions in 2023. This initiative could save an average family of four between €1,800 and €3,000.

In contrast, the UK has introduced a £2 bus fare cap scheme on single tickets for these services, effective from January 1 until March 31, 2023.