Transferring to Madrid Airport from Atocha

In a previous article, I walked you through the process of arriving into Madrid Atocha on the AVE or long-haul trains. Many passengers are unaware that the long-haul ticket prices includes the cost of your connecting train within Madrid.

Check your ticket

AVE preferente ticket.

AVE preferente ticket.

If you’re not sure if the ticket includes the cost of transferring onto the cercanias (local trains), ask the train manager or the staff on the platform as you disembark. Most tickets though, include this service. On the example above, note where it says “CERCANIAS/TRAM” right at the top.

Not just the airport!

The access to Cercanias is just before the exit.

The access to Cercanias is just before the exit.

When you go upstairs from the AVE platforms, you’ll see (very close to the exit signs) a very clearly sign-posted area for transfer to Madrid Airport. But in fact, you can transfer onto any Cercanias train following these signs. It’s absolutely brilliant, you don’t need to go back into the main station arrivals area, you simply go straight to the platform for your next service.

Information

Ticket machines at the connection to Cercanias from AVE platforms.

Ticket machines at the connection to Cercanias from AVE platforms.

Departure screens for the airport.

Departure screens for the airport.

Next to the ticket machines are screens showing you the departure time of the next two trains to Madrid Airport (so helpful!) AND flight departures information for the airport too.

Only Terminal 4?

Madrid Terminal 4 serves basically Iberia, Vueling, American Airlines, Qatar Airways & British Airways. If your flight is from Terminals 1/2/3  you can still take the train, but my recommendation would be to take the train as far as Nuevos Ministerios where you can easily change onto the Metro network.

How the C1 & Linea 8 connect at Nuevos Ministerios.

How the C1 & Linea 8 connect at Nuevos Ministerios.

You will need to buy a Metro ticket at Nuevos Ministerios.

why not take the metro the whole way?

Madrid Atocha station is on the blue L1 metro line, so just taking the metro all the way to the airport means two changes of lines and lots of stairs. The journey time via metro is pretty similar too – around 30 minutes. Certainly if there was any kind of delay or disruption, this would be a good bet… but those stairs!

At Nuevos Ministerios, you can change directly onto Line 8 (step-free) and continue to Madrid Airport. It’s your best option. Believe me.

Line C1 – to the airport.

C1 line to the airport.

C1 line to the airport. Only five stops to Madrid T4.

You need a new ticket

Your AVE tickets include a second booking reference for the local trains. But its easier than that. Go up to the ticket machines and you’ll see an option for change of ticket.

The screens show you how to scan your barcode.

The screens show you how to scan your barcode.

An actual machine, the barcode reader is the black bit centre left.

An actual machine, the barcode reader is the black bit centre left.

A close up of the scanner.

A close up of the scanner.

Then position your AVE ticket against the reader, so the machine can read your bar code and .. that’s it : your new ticket for the Cercanias service will pop out below. A word of caution, these tickets are required to exit the Cercanias network later and, at least in my case, BOTH my tickets lost their magnetic data during the journey. Keep them away from your mobile devices. I put mine in satchel with a lap top, two chargers, an iPad and two mobile phones … so my magnetic emissions were probably close to those of a red dwarf – but seriously, if you are on your way to the airport, you don’t want the added complication of a dead ticket at the other end.

Go through the gates

Entry gates to Cercanias from the AVE platforms.

After the gates, turn right into the elevator down to Cercanias.

Remember to collect your ticket from the machine as you go. You will need it at the other end.

You need to collect your ticket for the gates to open.

You need to collect your ticket for the gates to open.

There are elevators down to the Cercanias platforms. When the lift opens, follow the signs by turning left.

Turn left when you leave the elevator.

Turn left when you leave the elevator.

Superb signage

I was really impressed at the clarity and the abundance of signage from here to the platforms. You’ll come out onto a bridge from where you can look down on all the platforms for the local train services.

From the bridge you can see the whole Cercanias station.

From the bridge you can see the whole Cercanias station.

The next sign you'll see - take a right onto the bridge.

The next sign you’ll see – take a right onto the bridge.

Take a right onto the bridge

Like I said, this is so well signposted!

Since this piece is about connecting to Madrid Airport, you want Platform 1, which is the very last platform on the bridge and very clearly signposted. Before we get there, the other platforms in case that was what you’re were searching for.

Access to C10 & C9 lines from the bridge.

Access to platforms 9 & 10 at Madrid Atocha.

Platforms 9 & 10

These are the platforms for the C5 Cercanias line linking Fuenlabrada & Humanes. We have a page covering the C5 line ready for you!

Platforms 7 & 8

Madrid Atocha platforms 7 & 8.

Madrid Atocha platforms 7 & 8.

Platforms 7 & 8 are next up, as the sign above shows, the C3, C4 & C5 lines use this platform. Go on, admit it, you’re impressed? If only all railway stations were so organised.

Remember, the airport line is platform 1 so you can skip a couple of headers here if that’s where you’re heading.

Platforms 5 & 6

Platforms 5 & 6 access from AVE platforms.

Platforms 5 & 6 access from AVE platforms.

The C3 & C4 trains come through here.

Platforms 3 & 4

Madrid Atocha cercanias, platforms 3 & 4

Madrid Atocha cercanias, platforms 3 & 4

Note that C1 uses this platform too, but only when it’s heading south from Atocha. Again, look at the clarity of that signage .. you’re left in no doubt to carry on for the next set of platforms.

To the end of the bridge

You can see all the platforms from the bridge.

You can see all the platforms from the bridge.

The very last escalator down takes you to platforms 1 & 2. The trains to Madrid Airport depart from Platform 1.

The entrance to platforms 1 & 2.

The entrance to platforms 1 & 2.

Go down the escalators.

Sign at bottom of the escalators. Platforms 1 & 2.

Sign at bottom of the escalators. Platforms 1 & 2.

 

Board the train

All the trains that depart from Atocha to Madrid Airport depart from Platform 1 – but be warned : not every train from Platform 1 goes to the airport. There are screens at platform level to tell you where each train is headed.

Screens on the platform shows you where the train is heading.

This train ISN’T going to the airport. Pay attention to the screens.

 

On my trip to Madrid Airport, the train that showed up was one of Madrid’s old double-decker commuter trains. These are slowly being phased out in favour of new swanky Siemens trains with only one level. For journies to the airport with lots of bags, most of the passengers stayed on the lower floor so I was able to bag a seat on the upper deck.

A double-decker train. Madrid Atocha.

A double-decker train. Madrid Atocha.

The train itself was clean, but a bit worn out. However, even these older trains have electronic displays indicating the next station and have voice announcements prior to arrival in English & Spanish.

The upper deck on the double-decker trains.

The upper deck on the double-decker trains.

Time goes by

The journey time to the airport is 30 minutes from when the train departs. I had to wait around 15 minutes for an airport train, so factor 45 minutes from arrival into Atocha.

Madrid Chamartin

The next stop is Madrid’s Chamartin railway station.

Nuevos Minsiterios

One of the most impressive things about public transport in Madrid is the “inter-modal” stations. Nuevos Ministerios has lots of Cercanias connections but is also on the Metro network.

Most importantly, you can change here for Madrid Terminals 1,2,3 using the metro network, you will need to buy a Metro ticket, but the connection is at least step-free and from Nuevos Ministerios, there is a direct metro service to the airport (including Madrid T4).

Arriving at the Airport

Madrid Terminal 4 train station.

Madrid Terminal 4 train station.

Madrid Barajas (Barajas is the name of the village where the airport was built!) is also now known as Madrid Adolfo Suarez Airport (Spain’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, after the rule of General Franco ended, in 1977). The platform is located on the very bottom floor of the airport and, like the airport, it is a stunning piece of architecture.

Madrid Airport platform.

Madrid Airport platform.

Take the escalator or lifts to the upper level and follow the signs for Terminal.

You need that ticket!

Follow the signs to the exit.

Follow the signs to the exit.

You’ll need that little magnetic ticket to get out. When I arrived at Barajas (1pm) there was a huge queue of people trying to get through those gates. The issue wasn’t so much the number of passengers but them all fumbling looking for tickets. Or in my case, “billete defectuoso”.

Some queues/lines as travellers fumble with magnetic tickets.

Some queues/lines as travellers fumble with magnetic tickets.

Finally, turn right into the airport's basement floor.

Finally, turn right into the airport’s basement floor.

Take the elevator!

Departures is up on the top floor of the airport and you are in the basement, below arrivals. The pod-like elevators will whisk you directly to departures in seconds. Don’t even consider the moving walkways.

Meeting a flight?

Then you want the floor above. There are moving walkways to the exit doors to the arrivals hall. Upstairs on this level you’ll also find some decent bars & cafeterias to ease the pain of waiting.

Car Rental?

Car rental is the opposite end of the same floor as the station.

Car rental is the opposite end of the same floor as the station.

If you’re going to the airport to pick up a car (prices are often much lower at the airport than in town), you’ll find the on-airport companies on the same level as the Cercanias & Metro stations .. the basement.

Back to Terminals 1,2,3?

Madrid Airport metro station entrance.

Madrid Airport metro station entrance.

If you were heading to Terminals 1/2/3 and didn’t get off at Nuevos Ministerios to change, you can head back on the Metro. You’ll need to buy tickets but at least the Metro station is alongside the train station in the same area. Indeed, from the train platforms you can see the Metro platforms, just not actually connect without buying a new ticket.

The Linea 8 metro seen from the C1 train platforms.

The Linea 8 metro seen from the C1 train platforms.

That’s all folks

I hope that’s been useful. We’ve done a separate piece on Connecting from Madrid Airport to train departures from Madrid Atocha (going back the other way) too!