The AVE high-speed rail network has a new destination from this week. On Tuesday, the acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, was on the inaugural train journey to Granada from Madrid.
Granada will now be connected to the capital with three high-speed trains a day on a new branch line that connects with the existing Malaga-Madrid AVE line at Antequera, in inland Malaga province.
It's almost 20 years since the connection to Granada was first mooted. The line's construction began some ten years ago but was delayed during the world economic crisis. Despite ill-feeling between rival politicians over the length of time it has taken, this was put aside for the inaugural journey. The PM was joined by Andalusian regional president, Juanma Moreno, who got on when the train reached Antequera.
Granada linked to Costa too
The new line also opens the door to faster train journey times between Malaga and Granada as well. Passengers from the Costa will need to change at Antequera Santa Ana station until September when direct services of around an hour and a quarter start with Avant trains. But there has been criticism that this time is not much different to the bus or car. Next year a new Antequera Centro station will shorten the Malaga-Granada journey by a few more minutes.
The extension of the AVE network from Antequera into Granada is the latest in a long-term plan to connect most parts of Spain to the much-praised services that reach speeds of 300 km/h. Spain has been able to sell the technology and expertise to other countries, most notably to Saudi Arabia for a new line to Mecca.
However services into Granada will be slower than originally hoped as trains need to reduce speed in the mountainous Loja area of Granada province. Here the new, faster route is only just being started and for the moment the path of the old route is still used but with the narrower, international AVE gauge in place.
On Tuesday's inaugural train from Madrid there was much ribbon cutting and the new mayor of Granada, Luis Salvador, was there to greet it when it reached the city.
Juanma Moreno used the opportunity to call for the national government to improve rail links to more parts of Andalucía. "We want to get over that divide that separates us from the richest regions of Spain and Europe. We've got talent and potential, and above all the clear determination to reach that goal."
Also highlighting the benefits for tourism, Moreno added, "From now on, the world's moved closer to the Alhambra, the Albaicín, the Sierra Nevada and La Alpujarra."