In what government officials in Spain described as an effort to combat inflation and rising costs of living, train journeys under 300 kilometers (186 miles) will be available for free until the end of the year.
Under the initiative, which began on Thursday, passengers — both residents and tourists — will be eligible for free rides on local trains and medium-range routes between cities. It requires registering for a travel card, which requires a deposit, and is paid for by a government subsidy of 221 million euros ($221.6 million), according to Reuters.
There were early signs that the initiative was popular with riders. Raquel Sánchez, Spain’s minister for transportation, mobility and the urban agenda, said nearly 100,000 people had used the free admission in Madrid on Thursday morning, 50 percent more than “on a day like today” in 2019.
Spain, like many other countries, is battling high inflation: Its inflation rate rose to 10.8 percent in July, a 38-year high. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain has largely blamed Russia’s war in Ukraine for the surging prices.
A similar effort just concluded in Germany, where the national rail service offered all-you-can-ride monthly rail tickets for €9, or $9. The initiative, paid for by a €2.5 billion government subsidy, proved popular with riders, and did not lead to overcrowding as feared, even though a quarter of the population bought tickets in the first month.
Both countries presented the initiatives partly as lifelines against rising costs of living, but also as having longer-term benefits of fighting climate change and reducing dependence on Russian oil. Germany’s government said its program saved nearly two million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, according to The Guardian.
The Spanish initiative is part of a €9.5 billion package, announced in June, aimed at helping people through the rising costs of living. It included €3.6 billion in tax cuts, raised pensions, and other subsidies and spending, according to Reuters.