Ignacio Lillo / Antonio J. Guerrero
Malaga / Antequera
Tuesday, 16 May 2023, 12:33
Demand for the new Avant train service between Malaga and Antequera has failed to reach its potential with the average number of passengers per day barely exceeding 50.
The opening of the new Antequera-Ciudad station on 25 January was highly-anticipated as it improved the rail connection between the town and Malaga city to just 30 minutes.
But three months later and just a total of 3,200 passengers have used Avant services between the two destinations. The average is slightly more than 50 passengers per day, a long way off the forecast demand.
According to data provided by train operator Renfe, 360 season tickets have been issued for the routes to and from Antequera (to Malaga, Seville and Granada).
Why is demand so low?
The first factor is the price; a single ticket costs 14 euros. While it is high, there is a lot to learn about the possibility to make savings offered by Renfe and the Government for frequent users.
Avant trains are included in the Government's ongoing season ticket bonus measure, whereby a 50% discount is applied to travel throughout the year.
Also with the Plus 10 card, for 28.40 euros you can buy 10 return journeys in 30 days, so each journey costs 2.84 euros (20 days for use from the first time it is purchased). There is also the Plus 10-45 option; 45.15 euros for 10 journeys in 45 days (journeys at 4.51 euros). And the Plus 30-50, which costs 126.40 euros and is the cheapest option, offering up to 50 journeys over 60 days (each journey for 2.53 euros).
The timetable of the trains along the route is proving to be a sore point for passengers. A search on the Renfe website shows that the first train in the morning leaves Antequera at 8.27am, so it arrives at María Zambrano at 8.54am. This is late for the start time of most companies and institutions, as well as for students.
In the opposite direction, it is worse; if a worker catches the first Avant in Malaga city at 9.25am, they will not reach their destination until 9.51am. For these services to fit around people's work schedules, the first train would have to arrive at its destination at around 8am.
The three trains along this route leave Malaga at 9.25am, 3.50pm and 8.25pm. In the opposite direction (from Antequera) trains leave at 8.27am, 13.56 and 19.36.
But the Ministry of Transport has no intention of changing services: "Any new infrastructure, such as the Antequera AV station, requires time to settle into the habits of use,” a spokesperson said.
Antequera is currently a stopover on the Avant line between Malaga and Granada, and it is the capital cities which set the departure and arrival times.
When asked about it, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transport pointed out that there are two stations in Antequera, the recently inaugurated high-speed (AV) station and the Santa Ana station, which reflects the overall number of railway connections and the number of services available to Antequera residents, which on working days amounts to 73 (AVE, Avant and Media Distancia). As a result, 103,787 passengers have travelled between 25 January 25 and 25 April.
In Antequera, there is mutual dissatisfaction with the service. "After these first few months, we need more trains to the city to allow Antequera residents to study or work in Malaga and arrive at around 8am. And also, for both (trains), to be able to return before or after lunch," demanded the city's mayor, Manuel Barón.
Teacher Ana Belén Cabeza said: "The train may be all very well, but it is of no use to the students. They have to set timetables for arriving in Antequera at eight in the morning and returning to have lunch in Malaga".
On behalf of businesses, businessman of Molletes Horno el Antequerano Juan Villodres echoed similar concerns: "For business trips there should be more variety and you should be able to arrive early in the morning for meetings. And then choose to have lunch in one place or another, without losing the lunch break".
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