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

The country launched a rail scheme last September, enabling passengers to travel free-of-charge on select short and medium-length train journeys in Spain until the end of 2022.

This has been extended until December 31, 2023 and applies to multi-ticket journeys on cercanias (commuter services) and Media Distancia (medium-distance routes under 300km), run by national rail operator Renfe.

Renfe issued close to 2.5 million free Cercanías, Rodalies and Media Distancia passes and 50 per cent discounts on Avant services from the launch date until the end of December 2022. The rail operator has also renewed 230,000 passes since December 29.

Spain launches free rail travel scheme

While the scheme is also open to international tourists, it is mainly aimed at commuters, with high-speed trains and single tickets not included in the offer. The initiative has been designed to mitigate the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and also reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, 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 cercanias and €20 for Media Distancia journeys. This fee will be refunded when at least 16 trips are made within the four-month period.

According to The Guardian, free travel will also apply to intercity bus services on the Madrid-Barcelona route from February 1. A 50 per cent discount on such bus services has been in effect since September, and the newspaper expects that an 100 per cent discount will be applied to all long- and middle-distance journeys.

Spain’s minister for transport, mobility and urban agenda Raquel Sanchez told Spanish newspaper El Pais last year that the bus scheme would save more than 350 million litres of fuel, potentially preventing the emission of one million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere during 2023. She added that it could save a family of four between €1,800 and €3,000, on average.

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