The Spanish government has announced that travel across certain parts of the state-owned rail network, Renfe, will be free from 1 September until the end of the year.
Passengers can take advantage of 100 percent discounts on season tickets covering short and medium-distance services (less than 300 kilometres), but not the country’s high-speed network.
The move is in response to the spiralling wave of inflation and fuel costs, and follows the last month’s introduction of a 30 percent discount on all public transport, including metros, buses and trams.
“I’d like the people of Spain to know that I’m fully aware of the daily difficulties that most people have,” said Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez.
“I know salaries cover less and less and that it’s difficult to get to the end of the month.”
The 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 (US$7.13 billion) in two years.
Spain is not the first country in Europe to cut public transport fares in response to the economic climate.
In June, Germany launched its €9 unlimited monthly travel pass, which allows anyone who purchases the discounted ticket to travel as many times as they want across all forms of public transport throughout Germany – including buses, U-Bahns, S-Bahns, trams, and local and regional trains – for one calendar month.
Like Spain, the tickets won’t cover long-distance high-speed services – though Germany’s local and regional train network is more reliable and frequent than its Spanish counterpart.
In May, Italy announced that students and workers earning below €35,000 could apply for a one-off €60 public transit e-voucher, while Ireland reduced fares by 20 percent for the rest of the year.
Even before the cost-of-living crisis, a growing number of European countries were experimenting with free or heavily discounted public transport.
In 2021, Austria introduced its ‘Klimaticket’ scheme, offering passengers access to all public transport across the country for €1,095 a year, while in 2020 Luxembourg became the first country in the world to offer nationwide free public transport.
Image: Eric Salard (Flickr)
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