Spanish sketches of better future: free railway system is the answer!

The recent developments of the global climate hécatombe – Mediterranean droughts, European wild fires and flood in Pakistan to name a few – push us into the hands of emerging political imagination beyond the boundaries of dying neoliberalism. The left-wing government of Spain has come up with an idea that’s fulfilling two duties awaiting ahead of us: strengthening the state and abandoning fossil fuels.

In July, Sanchez government announced that some train trips and journeys by the state owned rail-network, Renfe, will be free from charge till the end of the year, starting from the 1 September. This move was founded on the arguments referring to the rising costs of living and inflation, as well as skyrocketing prices of fossil fuels. 

The Ministry of Transport declared that: “This measure encourages using public transport to guarantee a safe, reliable, comfortable, economic and sustainable means of doing the daily commute amid the extraordinary increase of energy and fuel prices”.

The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez supported this direction, adding that: “I’d like the people of Spain to know that I’m fully aware of the daily difficulties that most people have (…). I know salaries cover less and less and that it’s difficult to get to the end of the month”. This new solution is accompanied by the policy announced in June, in which the Spanish central government agreed a 30% discount on all public transport systems.  

Once again, Spain is an example of progressivity and a better future for all of us. 

The Spanish moves might sound extremely radical, but they are not alone. From June till the end of August, Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national railway, offered a €9-a-month ticket valid on all public transport services in Germany. Both local and regional trains (excluding InterCity), and local public transport. As the first studies show, the experiment turned out succesful. As VDV, leading public-transport organisation in Germany, counts, 1,8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide were not emited into the air thanks to people who chose train over car travel.

The other measure was taken in Austria in late 2021. The so-called “Klimaticket” is designed to encourage people to switch from their cars to public transport. The annual pass, priced at €1,095, works out at just €21 a week or €3 a day.

Austrian public transport is already extremely popular. According to official government figures, Austrians travel more kilometers by train every year than everyone in Europe except the Swiss.

However Spanish example skyrockets the debate on another level when it comes to the place of the European public transportation system.  Climate change is not leaving any topic behind, but the transportation is one of the main challenges. “A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. This assumes the average gasoline vehicle on the road today has a fuel economy of about 22.0 miles per gallon and drives around 11,500 miles per year” – says American EPA

This could be tackled by publicly encouraged and owned train journeys powered by the mix of green energy. Amid all hopes green cars are not going to reduce climate cost of transportation so drastically as we would like them to do.

Our main focus should be transitioning toward collective mobility. The only answer here is public shared transport used by the many, not the few. 

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