Spain has decided to make short and medium distance Renfe trains free from September, until the end of the year. It’s not the only European country to subsidise public transport, either. Here’s why, in a context of rising fuel prices and inflation, Australia should take note.
It’s not just Spain’s attitude to unemployment that Australia can learn from. We also should take note when it comes to public transport. Why? News has just broken that multi-journey tickets for short and medium distance Renfe services in Spain are going to become completely free in September. As CNN Travel reports, in response to increasing energy prices and inflation, “the government has announced further 100% discounts” (they had already halved prices in some cases).
The change will come into effect from September, with Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez saying multi-journey tickets for trains operated by Renfe’s Cercanías, Rodalies and Media Distance trips are to be free of charge from September the 1st up until the end of the year. The catch? Multi-journey tickets include a minimum of 10 return trips, and single fares are not included.
The Spanish Ministry of Transport has said: “This measure encourages to the maximum the use of this type of collective public transport to guarantee the needed daily commute with a safe, reliable, comfortable, economic and sustainable means of transportation, amid the extraordinary circumstances of the steady increase of energy and fuel prices.”
This is good news for tourists. As TimeOut points out: “For travellers visiting Spain, free Cercanías and Rodalies trains will unlock easy trips to the outer reaches of the city. But it’s the free Media Distancia trains which are really exciting: you’ll be able to city-hop all the way from Barcelona to Seville or Madrid to Bilbao, discovering a few underrated Spanish regional capitals along the way, all for absolutely nada.”
Though Australia is a country of cars, not trains (due to its geography and small population, as well as arguably, a lack of forward-thinking by previous generations), we still reckon we could learn from this bold new strategy from Spain. With Australian fuel prices through the roof, it would be nice to see incentives for commuters and travellers to take the train, even if only for short to medium length distance trips (like from Sydney to Newcastle, or Sydney to Wollongong).
Spain also isn’t alone in subsidising public transport costs, with Germany and Austria also offering very hip pocket friendly deals in recent years. Well, what are you waiting for? Either get your picket fence out and start protesting for free trains for Australia, or get your credit card out and book a flight to Spain…