The calls for a new railway line to be built from Malaga to Marbella, instead of extending the existing Cercanías suburban line which currently runs from the city centre to Fuengirola, are gaining more support. One of those in favour is the mayor of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre, who insists that the existing service is already struggling to cope with demand and this would be the only way to ensure that the trains are really competitive in terms of journey time and frequency of service.
One important factor is that on the existing C1 suburban line, which is the one there are plans to extend, 10.1 of the 30 kilometres are single track; in other words on 35 per cent of the line two trains travelling in opposite directions cannot pass. At present the trains run every 20 minutes and take 45 minutes to complete the journey, and this is precisely due to the existence of these bottlenecks. For this reason, engineering experts insist that if the government plans to go ahead with extending this line, the first thing it must do is widen the track all the way. This, however, would be complicated because there are so many homes close to the railway line, and that was why it was not done in 2006-2007, when the other parts of the track were widened.
Last year 10.5 million passengers used the Malaga Cercanías railway services, and 94 per cent of them were travelling to or from the Costa del Sol. The C1 service is already running at full capacity. If the Fuengirola line were to be extended to Marbella, as planned, it is calculated that the total number of passengers would more than triple, to 36 million.
A separate line
Francisco de la Torre says it is positive that the suburban railway is so busy, but he is firmly in favour of a completely separate line being built to Marbella, with a more frequent service to cope with higher numbers of passengers and fast trains to complete the whole journey in 40 minutes. He and others who support this idea also believe this new line should start at Malaga Airport.
The plan for a separate line has the backing of many hotels, businesses and associations, who say it is absurd if the extension of the existing line did not provide an incentive to people to use the train instead of cars.
At present the Ministry of Public Works and Transport is focusing on its existing plan to extend the C1 service from Fuengirola to Marbella. The project is currently at the stage where its potential environmental impact is being evaluated, and two routes are being considered, one running inland and parallel to the motorway, and the other on the coast below the A-7 dual carriageway. This long-awaited project to provide a rail service to Marbella, which was first mooted nearly 20 years ago, still has a long way to go before reaching fruition.