When the Junta de Andalucía drew up its latest land planning document for the Costa del Sol, it was not expecting the high-speed AVE train to run to Marbella and Estepona. As a result, no land has been reserved for this purpose in the draft 'Plan de Ordenación del Territorio' for the western Costa del Sol (POTCSO), and it makes no reference to a high-speed rail connection between the western coast of the province and Malaga airport.
The draft document, a planning blueprint for 20 years, was presented earlier this week at a conference in Ojén which was attended by the regional government's minister for the Environment and Land Regulation, José Fiscal. It does include other propositions regarding mobility, such as making the AP-7 toll free all along the Costa del Sol. It also suggests that a tram, or light railway, should run alongside the present A-7 dual carriageway, which would become a metropolitan boulevard for slow traffic.
However, faced with angry criticism for leaving out any reference to reserving land for a future faster rail link as far as Marbella, Fiscal corrected his position on Thursday and said the draft would be modified. He blamed the omission on Madrid's failure to pencil in the project either.
The Junta de Andalucía does not have the power to remove the tolls from the AP-7 motorway itself, nor to construct six new accesses which are also included in the draft document and would give the present motorway a different function. It does, however, have the power to reserve land for the construction of future infrastructures.
The plan's authors had originally explained that the area which is covered by it -from Fuengirola to Manilva- is sensitive territory where it is difficult to create new infrastructure. That is another reason why the first draft did not foresee the arrival of a high-speed railway service such as the AVE, the Junta had said.
On the other hand, the plan does propose that the AP-7 should become toll-free and that new accesses should be built to allow a direct connection from Benahavís, Istán, the Costa del Sol hospital (Marbella), Elviria (Marbella), La Cala de Mijas and Fuengirola.
The document also proposes turning the present A-7 (which used to be the N-340) into a metropolitan boulevard with an urban configuration and design, where a reserved platform would be introduced “with the capacity for rail transport'. The draft document referred to the possibility of a light railway, although the form of transport “will depend upon the forecasts of demand for this type of journey, studied by the organisation responsible for public transport matters.”
This boulevard, which is currently the main road along the whole of the Costa del Sol, would be used by slow traffic and public transport, and people making long journeys would use the present motorway if it were toll-free. With regard to the boulevard, the draft plan proposes creating 35 interchanges to enable intermodality between different transport systems.
According to the Junta, the present communications system is unsustainable and the creation of more infrastructures on such sensitive territory is, in his opinion, very complex. He believes it would more expensive to create more infrastructures than to cancel the tolls on the motorway.
The document also includes other strategic actions such as transforming the A-397 (San Pedro-Ronda) and the A-355 (Marbella-Cártama) into high-capacity roads by creating interchanges and transport nodes, and creating cycle lanes.