For the inhabitants of the most isolated parts of Spain like rural Galicia, getting access to banks used to mean a time-consuming and potentially hazardous drive – until one bank, Novagalicia, decided to “go mobile” and create what locals now nickname “el bus de dinero” (the money bus).
Novagalicia’s mobile bank fleet consists of two “money buses”, complete with cashpoint, armed security guards and a bank clerk waiting behind a desk when you clamber on board. Both buses cover around 60,000 kilometres (37,283 miles) a year on Galicia’s infamously labyrinthine network of rural roads, and each already has more than a million kilometres on the clock.
In the outlying villages of Galicia the buses’ arrival is something of a social event. “The villagers know when we are coming, and they wait for us,” Francisco Moruño, who has been running the money buses for several years, told El Correo Gallego newspaper.
The buses have also proved invaluable when more conventional, building-bound banks, have been forced to close their doors – like after the occasional hold-up, or when Cyclone Klaus, Galicia’s worst-ever hurricane in 2009, left large areas of the region without electricity.
The buses came in useful in March when one of Galicia’s pro-independence terrorist movements exploded a bomb in a cashpoint in the village of O Rosal. The money buses have never been robbed, but the security guards are nonetheless kept busy – one of their main tasks is helping the more aged customers up the buses’ steep steps.