There is some good news for those who travel by bus in Spain: the government has announced that many long-distance routes will be free of charge for regular users next year.
The Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, said this Friday morning (25 November) that the scheme which already exists, whereby local and medium-distance train journeys are free for passengers who do them regularly, is to be extended to long-distance bus travel as well. The aim is to encourage people to leave their cars at home and use public transport, as well as to help offset the cost of living crisis.
It is not yet known exactly how the bus scheme will work. Since 1 September these routes have already been subsidised by 50%, a measure which will remain in force until 31 January.
When that was introduced, it only applied to companies which already offered season tickets and multi-journey passes for their passengers. The Ministry of Transport says this may still be a condition for the 100% subsidy to be applied, although that has not been confirmed. In fact the president of the Confébus association, Rafael Barbadillo, has said that the model could be changed so that it resembles the system currently used on trains, where regular users pay a deposit which is refunded if they make a certain number of journeys within a particular period.
More bus companies will be able to apply to join the scheme now, so the current list of 42 routes could be expanded to 79, the total that make up the entire state-owned network
Some of the most popular bus routes which will be free in 2023 include Madrid-Segovia, Madrid-Guadalajara, Teruel-Barcelona and Santander-Bilbao-Barcelona. Regular passengers on these services can buy tickets for 10, 20 or 30 journeys at a 50% discount at present, but in just over a month they will be free.
Barbadillo said the measure is “very positive” because it rebalances the system of free public transport and puts buses in the same situation as medium-distance train journeys.
The long-distance bus network covers 2,400 towns and cities in Spain, with an average journey length of nearly 900 kilometres. Sánchez explained that the measure will provide a saving of over 350 million litres of petrol and stop one million tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere next year.