Spain announces completely free train travel to deal with cost-of-living crisis

·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
People run to catch a train during a 24-hour partial strike by train drivers at the Atocha train station in Madrid, Friday, June 10, 2016. During the first of four days strike, called by the Semaf trade union, commuters were affected by train delays and overcrowding during the morning rush hours despite agreed minimum services by the national rail company Renfe. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
People run to catch a train at the Atocha train station in Madrid. (AP)

Spain has announced it will make some short- and middle-distance train journeys completely free as the government seeks to combat the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez said on Tuesday that all Cercanías (commuter trains), Rodalies (commuter routes in Catalonia) and Media Distancia routes (mid-distance regional lines which cover distances less than 300km) run by the national rail system will be free from 1 September 1 to 31 December this year.

The 100% discount will only apply to multi-trip tickets, not single fares.

The new scheme comes in addition to the government funding a discount of between 30-50% on all public transport - including metros, buses and trams.

Spanish inflation has accelerated in the past few months and surpassed 10% for the first time in 37 years during the 12 months to June.

Rangers fans depart Seville's Santa Justa Train Station following the UEFA Europa League Final match last night. Picture date: Thursday May 19, 2022.
Rangers fans depart Seville's Santa Justa Train Station following the UEFA Europa League Final match last night. Picture date: Thursday May 19, 2022.

Sanchez said soaring inflation was the biggest challenge for Spain, likening it to "a serious illness of our economy that impoverishes everyone, especially the most vulnerable groups".

He also announced 100 euros a month in complementary scholarships for students older than 16 years who already receive scholarships.

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"I am fully aware of the daily difficulties that most people face. I know that your salary is getting less and less, that it is difficult to make ends meet, and that your shopping basket is becoming more and more expensive”, Sánchez said.

Spain's announcement comes as food and energy prices have surged across Europe as countries try to manage the fallout of Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

MADRID, SPAIN - JULY 13: The President of the Government, Pedro Sanchez, on the second day of the 26th edition of the State of the Nation Debate, at the Congress of Deputies, on 13 July, 2022 in Madrid, Spain. After seven years without holding one, the Lower House hosts during July 12, 13 and 14 the twenty-sixth edition of the debate on the State of the Nation since 1983 and the first to be held with Pedro Sanchez as President of the Government. This edition of the debate, is also the first for Unidas Podemos, Vox and Ciudadanos, since in 2015 no formation had parliamentary representation to participate. During the debate, the Government exposes and takes stock of the results of the policy it has carried out, the opposition appears to set out its positions and the motions for resolutions formulated by the other formations are voted. Among the topics to be discussed are the labor reform, the national plan of response to the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine, the last general State budgets approved, the recovery policies after the eruption of the volcano on the island of La Palma, the Next Generation European funds, the Iberian gas exception, Spain as host of the NATO summit and the presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2023. (Photo By Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via Getty Images)
Sanchez also announced 100 euros a month in complementary scholarships for students older than 16 years who already receive scholarships. (Getty)

On Thursday, the European Commission warned inflation could hit historic highs of 7.6%, up from last month's prediction of 6.1%.

In the UK, inflation increased to 9.1% in May and is expected to have risen further in June when the latest readings are confirmed later this month.

A new report released on Wednesday showed families in the UK have been left £8,800 ($10,443) poorer than households in comparable countries due to a “toxic combination” of low growth and inequality.

The study, published by the Resolution Foundation think tank and London School of Economics (LSE), estimates that the income of the typical low- and middle-earning family is a third less.

It found the poorest households are at an even greater disadvantage, with their incomes 40% behind in the comparison against five nations – Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Stagnation Nation, the interim report of the Economy 2030 Inquiry, blames the gap on a triple whammy of low growth, low productivity and high inequality that it says has had “disastrous consequences” for British families.

There is mounting concern over soaring energy costs, with annual bills expected to climb above £3,000 when the price cap is increased in October.

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