The recent news stories about the local railway being extended from Malaga to Marbella and Estepona at a cost of more than 3.8 billion euros, and the Junta de Andalucía's decision to include the AVE high-speed railway service to Marbella in the Territorial Organisation Plan (POT) for the western Costa del Sol, have prompted reactions from east of the city. Numerous mayors and officials from different political parties in the Axarquía region have expressed their concern about what they consider a discrimination against the eastern coast of the province.
Without denying that there is a need for these projects on the western Costa del Sol, the president of the Mancomunidad de la Axarquía, Gregorio Campos, insists that “any improvements to mobility on the western coast should also be applied in the Axarquía. We are not just talking about the railway, but also about mobility in rural villages”.
The mayor of Benamocarra, Abedeslam Lucena, agrees. “We are a prosperous area, but we still need major support if the Axarquía is not to become the poor relative of the Costa del Sol. We have a tropical [fruit] sector which is creating wealth and jobs for the province as a whole, and places with enormous potential for tourism such as Nerja and Frigiliana, but while projects costing millions of euros are being planned for the western Costa del Sol, we are being abandoned. The government and the Junta should start to think seriously about extending the railway from Malaga to Nerja,” he said.
He also pointed out that Benamocarra may only have a population of 3,500 but it is still prosperous, thanks to its tropical agriculture which also needs better infrastructure. “We have a serious problem with a lack of water here, but nothing is being done to guarantee that our agricultural sector has enough water for irrigation,” he said.
The mayor of Alcaucín, Mario Blancke, wants all the mayors in this area of the province to agree a common strategy to demand improvements from the public administrations. “It is not right that all the major infrastructure projects are carried out on the western Costa del Sol, while here we are left without,” said Blancke, pointing out that the Carretera del Arco has still not been completed, and some other projects are still at a standstill ten years on.
“If they're going to extend the railway to Estepona, it is only fair that they should bring it here as well. We need it just as much,” said councillor Marcelino Méndez-Trelles from Vélez-Málaga.
Support from all parties
“The Costa del Sol doesn't just run from Malaga to Estepona. It is the stretch between El Palo and Nerja as well, and we need to demand that the railway be extended along the eastern coast too,” said Francisco Delgado Bonilla, an MP for Malaga and opposition councillor in Vélez. “We're always being left out. The government and the Junta de Andalucía shouldn't only plan for Malaga to Estepona. People from all political parties need to defend the interests of our area,” he insisted.
The mayor of Torrox, Óscar Medina, feels the same. “This is nothing new. We have been saying for a long time that the Axarquía also needs a rail service to Nerja,” he said.
The mayor of Vélez-Malaga, Antonio Moreno Ferrer, said his party (PP) has been calling for the eastern Costa del Sol to be given equal treatment for a long time, so it is no longer the “poor end of the Costa del Sol”.
The mayor of Nerja, Rosa Arrabal, is also concerned that all the major infrastructure projects are carried out on the western coast. She said she is not against them, “but they mustn't forget us. We are the last municipality on the eastern Costa del Sol and it is essential that we have a rail connection with Malaga and the airport,” she said. She believes the region needs to remind the Junta de Andalucía and the government that they always need to “bear us in mind too”.