surinenglish

Getting there

Having the car you take for granted suddenly forced off the road for several weeks sheds a whole new light on how we move from one place to another. Forced to find an alternative to just grabbing the keys and running out the door, I've recently had a nostalgic reunion with the Fuengirola train line after several years' absence and discovered that the wonders of the Malaga city bus service stretch far beyond my imagination's capacity.

So with all the fuss in the last week over who has the best idea for a train to Marbella I have been able to look at the issue with the interest of a public transport user.

The conservative government's half-finished preliminary study concerning a possible extension of the C-1 Cercanías local line was offered up as a major step forward by the minister on Saturday in Marbella - and immediately criticised by the socialist opposition who want a faster, more direct alternative.

The minister's billion-euro scheme, especially the expensive version that would tunnel under the coast road, allowing for stations in most built-up areas along the western Costa del Sol, is certainly attractive (except for the view). Commuters who make the daily journey between Calahonda, say, and San Pedro, would appreciate being able to hop onto the train every morning.

What's harder to digest is the idea of the local train being used by tourists landing at Malaga Airport and heading for Marbella, instead of hiring a car or taking the bus. First of all, where would they sit? The trains to Fuengirola are already packed, and then their journey, much of it holding onto a pole clutching a suitcase between their legs, would take well over an hour, nearly double the journey time by car.

So both parties have a point; in fact both their projects are necessary. But if we're only allowed to have one (you can't have your cake and eat it, even in Marbella), the debate could go on for years and the western Costa has already been waiting too long for a railway line.

I hope it's not too naïve to suggest that politicians decide based on the general interests of the area and give up what is turning into a game of political oneupmanship.

Meanwhile, thank goodness for wonderful friends who lend you their car to drive to Marbella.