RENFE EMU (Photo: Marc Pascual/Pixabay)

SPAIN: Passenger traffic on the national rail network has recovered to around 50% of pre-pandemic levels, RENFE Present Isaías Táboas has reported, adding that RENFE is anticipating that the figure would reach 70% by the end of 2021.

Citing operations in Andalucía as an example, on March 18 Táboas said Cercanías suburban services around Sevilla had been restored to the same levels as those operated in early 2019, while demand was running at 53% of that seen in early 2020. Media Distancia services in the region are operating at more than 60% of the 2019 level, while demand is around 50%.

However, high speed and long distance services to and from Andalucía are more limited, with RENFE operating around 40% of the normal timetable, and seeing less than 40% of the usual ridership.

According to Táboas, recent surveys have indicated that 85% of potential passengers are still avoiding travelling by train because of safety concerns over the extent of the coronavirus at their planned destinations. Various local and provincially-imposed restrictions remain in place, including curfews and cordons sanitaires aimed at restricting the spread of infection.

The questionnaires revealed that around 5% of potential train users had stopped travelling for economic reasons, while 6% believed that train travel during the pandemic was not safe, in spite of the operator’s efforts to ensure strict hygiene through enhanced cleaning, regulations requiring the wearing of masks and limiting train occupancy to facilitate social distancing.