Cercanías lines see biggest growth in Spain despite missing Marbella link

Passengers waiting at a Malaga Cercanías station.
Passengers waiting at a Malaga Cercanías station. / ÑITO SALAS
  • The well-used service saw 11.45m passenger trips in the year to May, an increase of 4.5 per cent

The two Cercanías lines for local trains, on the Costa del Sol and in the Guadalhorce valley, are continuing to attract record passenger numbers.

The well-used trains are the Cercanías services that have seen most growth in Spain, and now rank fourth among the networks of local rail lines around Spain's largest cities.

Between May 2017 and May 2018, 11.45 million trips were made on the two lines that join Malaga city centre with Fuengirola, via Malaga Airport, and with Álora. This was an increase of 4.5 per cent on the same period twelve months before.

The good results should be seen in the context of the limited coverage of the local network. Currently there are no firm plans to extend the line from Fuengirola into Mijas Costa and Marbella, as local authorities and business people have been calling for for many years.

Besides the problem of finding funding, successive governments in Madrid have been unable to decide on the best way to extend the line. The previous conservative PP government was working on ideas for an extension of the existing Fuengirola line, while the incoming PSOE party, that also controls the Junta de Andalucía regional government, has been more in favour of an entirely new, faster line from Malaga to Marbella.

With 455,000 more passengers in the year to May, Malaga province's Cercanías lines are, among the 14 big metropolitan areas, now only behind those of Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.

Madrid's are by far the most used, with 247.5 million journeys in the period, followed by 113.8 million in Barcelona. Valencia is in third place on 15.1 million, much closer to Malaga in numbers. The figures refer to state-rail-operator Renfe's local services and exclude city metros or Catalan regional-run lines.

Rail bosses have highlighted the even bigger demand each day of the week on the Costa del Sol line due to the influence of tourists. In contrast, other cities' lines see a big fall in passenger numbers at weekends and holidays. Moreover, Malaga's lines have a high percentage of foreign users for the same reason.

The peak period on Malaga's two Cercanías lines, C-1 and C-2, is Holy Week leading up to Easter.