Spain’s Answer to Inflation is Free Train Rides for Everyone

Spanish lawmakers set aside more money for free train rides than the U.S. government offered for California’s proposed high-speed rail network.

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A high-speed train in the Spanish countryside.
You get a free train ticket! You get a free train ticket! You get a free train ticket! And you get a free train ticket!
Photo: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno (Getty Images)

Imagine living somewhere with a functional rail network that is given the support and funding it needs by lawmakers. What must that be like? Now add to that dream, free train travel in an attempt to combat the rising cost of living. What if I told you this wasn’t an imaginary land, it’s just Spain?

Lawmakers in Spain have earmarked more than $200 million to offer travelers across the country free train rides until the end of the year. According to The New York Times, rail passengers in Spain will be able to make free journeys up to 186 miles until the end of 2022. The Times reports:

“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.”

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A commuter train arrives at a station in Spain.
Travelers can make free train journeys up to 180 miles.
Photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP (Getty Images)

The initiative is being touted by the government as a means of tackling the cost of living crisis and rampant inflation in the country. In Spain, inflation reached 10.8 percent in July, which prime minister Pedro Sánchez blamed on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

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The offer follows a similar budget-friendly approach to train travel taken by Germany. In June, German travelers could purchase a monthly unlimited rail travel ticket for less than $10. The experimental ticket was dubbed a huge success by lawmakers in the country. A study off the back of the trial period also found that the initiative cut the country’s CO2 emissions by nearly 2 million tons.

Now, you might be wondering when the U.S. will get its own similar scheme. But, sadly, you might be waiting a while for any such show of support for our train network.

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In fact, the $221.6 million spent by Spain on the free ticket offer is almost 10 times more than the investment U.S. lawmakers offered a high-speed rail development in California. Now, tell me again why America is supposedly the greatest country on Earth?