SPAIN’S state rail operator Renfe will be tightening up its conditions from Wednesday for anyone found to be abusing the government’s free tickets system. Violators will lose their €20 deposit and their rail pass for Medium Distance journeys will be cancelled.

The measure was introduced after rail users were making a series of ‘phantom’ bookings on the service only to take the train that best suited them, leaving carriages often fully booked but at the same time half empty. 

The free train-travel scheme was introduced on September 1 by the Spanish government as a way to deal with the cost of living crisis. Passengers wishing to use the scheme must buy a travel card, the cost of which is then reimbursed once a certain number of journeys have been made. 

Renfe had already introduced several measures to crack down on people taking advantage of the system, putting a limit on the number of reservations people could make, but this didn’t stamp out the problem. 

So from Wednesday Renfe will start to keep the €20 deposit for a travel pass if a user has on at least three occasions failed to cancel a reservation at least two hours in advance. This will not affect users of Cercanías commuter trains, which do not have reserved seating. 

What’s more, the user will not be able to purchase a new travel pass for any Medium Distance lines for the next 30 days. The user will, however, get two warnings before Renfe keeps the deposit and travel pass. 

The scheme has been a big hit among the Spanish public, with more than 2.2 million passes purchased since it came into force according to figures published in Spanish daily El Pais. Of these, 1.6 million were for use on Cercanias and Rodalies (the system in Catalunya) while 627,000 were for Medium Distance.

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