Wheelchair Accessible Train Travel in Spain
March 9, 2005 7:08 AM   Subscribe

How hard is it for a mostly wheelchair bound person to get around Spain by train? Our party of 4 includes one wheelchair user (who can make short walks on prosthetic limbs if necessary) and three people with no mobility issues. We're trying to determine if we can travel by train among Madrid, Seville, Toledo, and Cordoba, or if we should rent a car. First-hand accounts would be particularly appreciated, and any other tips on accessibility issues in Spain are welcome as well.

I should probably mention that I spent a morning googling before posting here, and found a lot of resources on traveling with mobility issues, but no answer to this specific question.
posted by yankeefog to Travel & Transportation around Spain (9 answers total)
Best answer: No first hand information on disabled travel, but you should be aware that there are several different classes of trains in Spain--from the deluxe Ave that you can take from Madrid-Sevilla-Cordoba, to the workaday Renfe Regionales trains that go the same routes in much more time. I'd be really surprised if the Aves and major city stations weren't accessible, but very unsurprised if the smaller local stations and regional trains were inaccessible.

The very first FAQ on the Renfe.es page (the Spanish train system) asks about disabilities. I've tranlsated quickly for you:

Q. Are there accomodations for disabled people?

A. Renfe's commitment to the disabled is manifested by the creation of equipment and services to accomodate them.

To obtain assistance ("Servicio de Asistencia) the traveler should contact the station at least one day in advance.

Contact telephone numbers [presumably to put you in contact with the person in charge of disabled services at each station] will be available in the Customer Service Office ("Oficina de Atencion del Cliente") or if not, in the station chief's ("jefe de estacion") office.

PS - If anyone has a more elegant translation for "se concreta," I'd appreciate suggestions!
posted by insideout at 7:27 AM on March 9, 2005

Just wanted to suggest buses. They're significantly cheaper and for the most part just as fast as the trains in spain. And there's way more of them scheduled. There's a few high speed trains, but other than that they're pretty equivalent. I don't know about the handicap issues though.
posted by alkupe at 7:51 AM on March 9, 2005

"is shown"?

if you speak spanish, try googling for spanish terms. section 9.1.6 of http://accesibilidad.artmedialabs.com/pnda/pdf/documentos/blanco/04.pdf - estimates that 30-40% of local (metro?) stations are suitable, but only 2% of inter-city stations are usable by a single person in a wheelchair. i'm in a bit of a rush and the spanish is difficult for me, so maybe someone else can help?
posted by andrew cooke at 7:59 AM on March 9, 2005

You might find some good resources in this MeFi thread.
posted by matildaben at 8:28 AM on March 9, 2005

I've lived in Spain off and on for 25 years. It is not very user friendly for wheelchair bound people or pram pushers.
Stairs + steps proliferate and then you get the revolving door!
However as you seem to have 3 able bodied " lifters" you should be able to have a great time. Spanish people as a whole are considerate and helpful.
I would be wary of public transport. Hiring a car seems a much better bet to me.
posted by adamvasco at 9:45 AM on March 9, 2005

http://www.imagina.org/archivos/Aragon_Guia_Consumidor.pdf says the same thing - contact the station at least a day in advance. it also gives guides to discount prices, but they require a "golden card" which, i suspect, is restricted to residents.

looking again at the first document, it described (in an earlier section) access to stations. that's only 100% in one city - a significant number still have stairs only.

i'm surprised at how bad this is, to be honest, and ashamed as a european. i hope i've misunderstood - any spanish residents want to put forwards a different view?

i've travelled a lot in europe by train (while i never though about it, much of the rolling stock is old, with narrow doors, and you often need to climb steps to get on board) and it's a great way to travel (personally i'd chose it rather than a car). it's a pity that it's not more accessible. as adam said, people will be very friendly. so if you can manage with the day in advance thing, i'm sure people would help. but if you're not sure about spanish skills (speaking over a phone is worse than face to face) it doesn't sound like much fun.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:44 AM on March 9, 2005

Best answer: I traveled around by rail in Spain last year and believe that it could be a challenge in a wheelchair. That said, though, the first class Talgo and AVE lines in large cities are very modern, well equipped, well staffed, and shouldn't be a problem. However, if you would like to go to any smaller or more rural cities, the train stations can be sparse and will have less employees around. The smaller stations often have underground passageways, with no guarantee of elevators, which run below the platforms. Navigating these passageways are necessary for changing trains. Best of luck and have a great trip.
posted by Staggering Jack at 1:13 PM on March 9, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, all!

My wife and I both took Spanish in high school, and between the two of us, we can probably work out how to call stations, and we'll do that if we end up taking the train. But, of course, it's always best to hear from people who have actually used the stations, so do keep the experiences coming.
posted by yankeefog at 12:29 AM on March 10, 2005

Response by poster: For anybody who comes across this thread via google, looking for information on the topic of wheelchair travel in Spain, I wrote a summary of my experiences in this MetaTalk thread.
posted by yankeefog at 2:18 PM on January 26, 2006

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