Free Cercanias connection with a long-haul train

Renfe allows a free connection to the Madrid Cercanias network if you’re taking an AVE or long-haul ticket either to or from Madrid Atocha. This is part of a service called CombinadoCercanias, which Renfe operates at several major train stations across Spain including Madrid. You can use the free Cercanias connection to reach Madrid Atocha before catching your AVE/long-haul train or after arriving at the station. But it’s only available four hours before your AVE/long-haul train departs from Atocha OR after your AVE/long-haul train arrives at the station.

How can you tell if your ticket includes a free Cercanias connection?

You can tell if your ticket has a free Cercanias connection by looking at the booking reference. We’ve got two examples below. I’ve added the yellow highlighting to make the booking reference easier to spot. In addition to the barcode on the ticket, you’ll notice there is a five-digit reference also highlighted in yellow. It’s beside the reference to ‘CERCANIAS/TRAM’.


A machine-printed AVE ticket.

A machine-printed AVE ticket.

AVE ticket showing second booking reference (in yellow).

AVE ticket showing second booking reference (in yellow)

You’ll still need to print out your (free) Cercanias ticket

Now, whilst this means you have a free Cercanias connection, you still need to print out a specific Cercanias ticket to use on the network. To do this, find a Renfe ticket machine. Most of the newer ones are purple but some are red as you can see in the picture below. On the screen, choose the option: Collect Cercanias ticket.

A Renfe automated ticket machine.

A Renfe automated ticket machine.

Scan your existing AVE/long-haul train ticket

Next, scan your existing AVE/long-haul train ticket. The scanner will read the barcode. The scanner is the dark glass bit on the left of the machine, under the image of a barcode. Here’s a close up.

Close up of the scanner.

Close up of the scanner.

If the barcode isn’t scanning for some reason, you should also be able to select an option to key in the five-digit code. After scanning or keying in the code, you’ll be asked to choose your destination. As you will need to present the ticket when you exit the network, make sure you choose the correct station.

Collect your ticket & avoid keeping it close to anything electronic

A cercanias ticket.

A Cercanias ticket

The machine will then issue you with a Cercanias ticket to use either to go to Madrid Atocha or from Madrid Atocha. It’s a small ticket with magnetic stripes. And they are very sensitive to losing their data so keep them well away from your phones, chargers or other sources of cosmic radiation. I had issues with both my tickets losing their magnetic data by the time I reached my destination.

When you’re exiting from the Cercanias and if your ticket has lost its magnetism, you’ll get a message on the machine saying ‘Billete Defectuoso’. If your ticket no longer works, go to the glass Renfe ticket desk in the centre of the gates and they’ll let you out.

You've lost your magnetism.

Billete defectuoso (defective ticket). Your tickets lost its magnetism.

Don’t have a free Cercanias connection?

You can still buy ticket from the same machines. Alternatively, you can use the Madrid Transport card. These cost 2,50 EUR and you can pre-load them with the journeys you wish to use.


Madrid Transport Cards.

Madrid Transport Cards

Image: © Andres Gomez./Flickr