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The COVID-19 pandemic in Spain. First wave: from the first cases to the end of June 2020

Monographs from the National Atlas of Spain.

Map: Passengers using rail transport. 2019-2020. Spain. PDF. Data.

Lockdown led to a sharp drop in the amount of passengers using rail transport. 178.9 million people used rail transport in the first four months of 2019, whilst only 50.2 million used it during the same period in 2020.

Metropolitan railways (Cercanías) account for 90% of rail users in Spain. The fall in the amount of passengers peaked in April 2020, registering a drop of 90%. Subsequently, the decrease in the use of metropolitan railways settled in June 2020 at around half the usual amount of passengers. On average, rail transport dropped by 70% during the period assessed, falling from 178.9 million to 50.2 million passengers. The average drop in the amount of passengers using high-speed and long-distance trains was much more acute, as these types of services were more affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions. The territorial distribution of medium-distance, long-distance and high-speed trains has two basic poles in Madrid-Atocha station (20% of the trips and over 4,000,000 passengers) and Barcelona-Sants station (14% of the trips and almost 3,000,000 passengers). These two stations channelled together a third of the total trips in Spain in 2019. The slope of decrease in the amount of passengers in 2020 was more steep in Madrid-Atocha (drops of 85%-90%) due to the radial layout of long-distance and high-speed trains, which is very much centred on the Spanish capital city.

Over 50% of all rail passengers used the stations in Madrid, Barcelona, València and Seville (Sevilla) in 2019 (10.7 million out of 20 million passengers used one of these stations). This percentage increased to 60% in 2020 (2.1 million out of 3.5 million passengers) even though rail passengers dropped in these four stations by 82% (from 10.7 million to 2.1 million). Monthly oscillations were also evident: drops reached 53% in March, 97% in April, 92% in May and 85% in June 2020 compared to the same periods of the previous year.

Rail freight transport accounts for only 4% of the total rail transport in Spain, what is a very low figure in relation to the average in the European Union (18%). Freight was not as affected as passengers by lockdown and travel restrictions taking into account the whole year 2020, as the drop stood only by 11% in relation to 2019. However, during the first four months of the year, freight transport decreased by 25.5%, and only had 4.3 million tonnes transported in 2020 compared to 5.8 million tonnes in 2019. International transport recovered faster and exceeded 2019 figures in September 2020 (Martos, 2020).

  • Statistical graph: Evolution in the amount of rail passengers. 2019-2020. Spain.
  • Statistical graph: Evolution in rail freight transport. 2019-2020. Spain.


Co-authorship of the text in Spanish: Maurici Ruiz Pérez and Joana Maria Seguí Pons. See the list of members engaged


You can download the complete publication The COVID-19 pandemic in Spain. First wave: from the first cases to the end of June 2020 in Libros Digitales del ANE site.