After the announcement of the relatively small Luxembourg, Spain also joins the list of countries ready to make the public transport network free of charge. The initiative would appear to be aimed on the one hand at helping the development of more sustainable and environmentally conscious tourism, and on the other hand at helping citizens reduce fuel consumption due to soaring energy prices. Following an announcement this week by the national government, the country will in fact offer season tickets for suburban and regional trains, which accommodate around 48 million trips per month. The biggest beneficiaries of the plan will be the inhabitants of Madrid and Barcelona, Spain’s two largest cities, which account for 80 per cent of the country’s suburban rail passengers.
The programme, which will run from 1 September to 31 December, aims to promote rail travel as a “safer, more reliable, more comfortable, cheaper and more sustainable means of transport than the private car”, says a government spokesperson.
Similarly, the German government has also promoted an unlimited monthly season ticket at a cost of only EUR 9 – usable for local and regional trains – as part of a government package of energy reductions, is scheduled to run until the end of August. At the end of 2021, Austria also introduced a heavily discounted “climate ticket”, valid on all public transport in the country, with the aim of encouraging people to leave their cars at home.
For this project, the stated aim of the policy is to publicize the advantages of more sustainable forms of transport, but it is also to reduce car use at a time of cost-of-living crisis that Spain is feeling particularly acutely. Therefore, with the consequent increase in energy costs, free season tickets could alleviate the stress of low and middle income families, although not uniformly across the country.
Opening image: Botanical Garden in Madrid Atocha Train Statino. Photo MP, via Unsplash