Thursday, 2 July 2015

Madrid, Spain

Europe's third largest capital city by population is Madrid.  More than 3 million people live within the city boundary - only Berlin and London have larger populations.  Admittedly, other cities have larger populations if you include their wider metropolitan areas.

Located on a plateau in the centre of Spain, at more than 660 metres above sea level Madrid is also the highest capital city in the European Union.

Madrid's transport system comprises an extensive network of buses, light rail, a metro and suburban rail.

Around 170 bus routes operate within the city boundary.  These are provided by Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid (EMT Madrid - website in Spanish only) with a fleet of about 1,900 vehicles.

Most of the EMT buses I observed in Madrid were single-deckers with two sets of doors.

Bus routes C1 and C2 operate as circular services around the edge of the city centre.  Route C1 runs clockwise, route C2 anti-clockwise.

The buses I noted on route 500 were shorter than standard single-deckers.

Although there were plenty of conventional diesel-powered buses, a significant proportion of EMT Madrid's fleet is powered by gas.


I also noted a number of hybrid-powered buses on Madrid's streets. 

Articulated buses are used on a small number of routes.

Some are powered by diesel, others by gas.

At the opposite end of the scale, microbuses operate two services which wind their way through narrow streets in the centre of Madrid.

These vehicles, which are battery-powered, have just 7 seats.


Fares on EMT's blue buses are simple.  At the time of writing, a flat fare of €1.50 applies for any single journey although, unlike in many other European cities, this does not permit interchange.  Passes allowing unlimited travel for 1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 days (also valid on light rail, metro and suburban rail) are also available, as are longer period passes.

A dedicated bus service links Madrid's airport with the city centre.  Buses carry a special yellow livery.


The airport service terminates outside Madrid's main railway station, Atocha.  A special €5 fare applies on this service.

The bus destination displays alternate between Spanish and English.

Services operating into the area surrounding the city are provided by a number of private companies.  They are co-ordinated by Consorcio de Transportes de Madrid (website only in Spanish).

Most of the buses I saw carried green liveries, although there were different shades and variations.


A variety of vehicles is used.  Some are low-floor, others are high-floor.

All are accessible to people using wheelchairs.




A zonal tariff system applies on these outer-suburban services.

For journeys wholly within the Madrid city boundary, a flat fare of €1.50 applies.  Otherwise, the fares range from €1.30 to €5.10 depending on how many zones are crossed.

With the exception of the Madrid city fare, ten journey tickets are available.  These generally offer a saving of around 40%.

30-day and annual tickets allowing unlimited travel within the relevant zone(s) are also sold.  As well as the outer-suburban buses, these also allow travel on EMT buses, the tram, metro and suburban rail services.

The outer-suburban buses do not operate into the heart of Madrid.  They terminate at Metro stations close to the city centre, with the Metro providing onward connections.

While buses remain above ground at some of the terminals, at others they serve interchanges located below ground.   This image shows the entrance to the Principe Pio interchange hub, which has a below-ground bus station on two levels.

Longer-distance and international coach services generally operate into a coach terminal to the south of the city.  This is located close to the arterial road network, meaning the coaches don't operate through the city centre.  The coach station website is in Spanish only.

Double-deck buses can be seen in Madrid but, as in many of the cities I have visited, they are used only on sightseeing tours.

Madrid City Tour operates two sightseeing routes.


In common with many western European cities, Madrid used to have a tram system.  I'm guessing that these rails, close to the "Faro de Moncloa" telecommunications tower, are a remnant of Madrid's traditional tram system.


In 2007, trams returned to the Spanish capital.  Three "Metro Ligero" (light metro) lines opened in 2007.  Line ML1 runs through Madrid's northern suburbs, acting as a feeder to the Metro.  Lines ML2 and ML3 also act as Metro feeders, in the south west of the city.

These images are of line ML1, part of which runs below ground.

Over the sections where it runs above ground, ML1 is segregated from general road traffic.

Madrid is home to a cable car system, the Teleférico de Madrid.  This provides a 2.5 kilometre sightseeing ride to the west of the city.

When I visited in September 2014, the cable car was operating at weekends only.  For 2015 it is open daily throughout its operating season, from mid-March through to the end of December.

Finally, Madrid has a cycle hire scheme, BiciMad (website only in Spanish). 

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