A packed carriage on a local train service from Fuengirola to Malaga on Sunday night. / A. NAVARRO

Christmas lights train misery for Cercanías users: 'We were jam-packed in and many were left behind'

Train company Renfe has denied Costa local rail lines were operating in excess of capacity over the early December long weekend

IGNACIO LILLO MALAGA.

Platforms and carriages bursting with people - with no chance of social distancing - and passengers left behind at stations. Users of the local Cercanías rail services over the long weekend - which lasted for many until Wednesday this week, the first public holidays of the festive season - expected trains to be busy; but not that busy. Many shared stories of the chaos with SUR.

Alejandro Navarro and friends decided to park in Fuengirola and go by train to Malaga for a day out last Sunday, knowing that people would be flocking to see the city's famous Christmas lights

"We caught the train at 12.10pm and to start with the number on board was acceptable, and as we got closer to Malaga it filled up a lot. We could see that this wasn't a normal number of passengers," he explained.

"But on the way back it was incredible - at Málaga Centro-Alameda station more and more people started arriving, building up at the end of the platform, which filled completely. When the train arrived, everyone bunched up at the train doors to get on, and, to cap it all, every so often the station tannoy reminded us to socially distance due to Covid!"

Ironically, among the friends was a microbiologist at Hospital Costa del Sol in Marbella, who works analysing PCR tests. She had to urge people in the carriage to put their masks on.

Elsewhere, Laura Ruiz was one of the passengers who was left behind at Plaza Mayor station. "There were a lot of us at the stop, and when the train came nobody got off, and so it shut its doors and carried on without any of us getting on," she said, adding that she waited a further 40 minutes to "by some miracle" get on the next one.

A spokesperson for operators Renfe admitted that last weekend trains were particularly busy from Malaga to Fuengirola at the end of the day, but said that the maximum capacity in the carriages was adhered to and denied they were fuller than normal.

With recent cutbacks on the Cercanías lines due to driver shortages, the frequency of service ranged from every 20 to every 50, making waiting times longer.

Large crowds have been filling Malaga city centre since the lights were switched on.