Train strike in Spain: What you need to know

Hundreds of train services across the country have been cancelled as workers belonging to Spain’s national rail provider Renfe go on strike. Here’s everything you need to know about the strike which starts on Thursday September 30th.

A passenger about to board a Renfe train in Madrid. Spain's public rail workers announced a strike for late September and early October 2021
Cancelled services include 267 AVE and long-distance trains, 625 medium distance and 813 freight trains. Photos: Gabriel Buoys/AFP

How many train services have been cancelled?

Renfe will cancel a total of 892 passenger train services during the first four days of this latest wave of train strikes in Spain.

This includes services on September 30th and October 1st, 4th and 5th, but excludes weekends.

The strike is planned to last eight days, but as things stand Renfe has only announced its plans for the first half of the workers’ strike, and not the remaining strike days of October 7th, 8th, 11th and 12th.

October 12th is Spain’s National Day and as a result a public holiday across the country. 

Cancelled services include 267 AVE and long-distance trains, 625 medium distance and 813 freight trains.

Commuter rail Cercanías services – which connect Spain’s big cities with their outskirts – will not be reduced in number during rush hour but they will have a frequency 25 percent below average the rest of the day. 

For medium-distance services, the frequency will be dropped to 65 percent, AVE and long-distance trips will operate at 72 percent of their usual frequency.

Freight trains carrying goods will be the most affected overall with only 24 percent in operation over the coming days. 

The strike will affect a proportionally small number of passenger train services in the coming two weeks, despite hundreds of cancellations. Map: Renfe

Who is striking and why?

Renfe’s latest strike has been organised by Spain’s Train Engine Drivers and Workers Union (SEMAF). 

They’re calling for the Spanish government to meet standards of Spain’s latest labour plan and transfer responsibilities to the autonomous communities as promised. 

According to SEMAF, the national rail provider’s board has used the pandemic as an excuse to lay off 700 workers in all company categories. 

Another rail workers’ union – Sindicato Ferriviario – will also call for workers to strike on the same days to protest the fact that Renfe is “immersed in a chaotic situation as a result, in our opinion, of company policies based primarily on interest in expanding abroad”.

Workers striking include 85 percent of engine drivers (maquinistas in Spanish).

Both syndicates agree that plans to split part of Renfe’s workforce and installations and transfer them over to Catalonia’s regional government is not a plan staff are in favour of. 

How do I find out which trains have been cancelled?

Visit Renfe’s website and type in a search for your train time as if you were going to book a ticket again. 

If a red icon shows up, that means your train service has been cancelled.

In any case, Renfe has ensured that customers with cancelled tickets will receive a text message to their phones or an email informing them of the situation and offering them alternative services. 

If they don’t want to rebook an alternative trip and wish to cancel their travel plans, Renfe will fully reimburse them the initial ticket price.

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Spain eases Covid entry for unvaccinated tourists

Spain on Saturday eased Covid entry rules for unvaccinated tourists from outside the European Union, in a boost for the key tourism sector ahead of the peak summer holidays.

Spain eases Covid entry for unvaccinated tourists

Until now travellers from outside the bloc — including Spain’s main tourism market Britain — could only enter with proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19.

But as of Saturday visitors from outside of the EU will also be allowed to enter Spain with a negative Covid test result, the transport ministry said in a statement.

PCR tests must be carried out in the 72 hours prior to departure to Spain or an antigen test 24 hours prior to departure.

Tourism Minister Maria Reyes Maroto said the “new phase of the pandemic” meant the country was able to relax the rules by equating non-EU travellers with those of the bloc.

“This is excellent news, much awaited by the tourism sector, which will make it easier for tourists outside of Europe to visit us during the high season,” she added in the statement.

Children under the age of 12 are exempt from submitting any type of certificate.

With sunny beaches and a rich architectural heritage, Spain was the world’s second most visited country before the pandemic, with 83.5 million foreign visitors in 2019.

But international travel restrictions related to the pandemic brought Spain’s tourism sector to its knees in 2020 as it welcomed just 19 million tourists.

The figure rose to 31.1 million in 2021, far below the government forecast of 45 million arrivals.

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