File image of Cercanías commuter trains on the C1 line which runs between Malaga city and Fuengirola. SUR
New coastal train between Malaga and Estepona must go underground, engineering experts agree
SUR coastal train campaign

New coastal train between Malaga and Estepona must go underground, engineering experts agree

At a SUR-organised forum, one forecast "absolute collapse" on the Costa del Sol in ten years if transport solutions such as the railway corridor are not provided, particularly factoring in projections such as those of Malaga Airport where 30 million people could pass through the facilities every year by then

Chus Heredia


Monday, 17 June 2024, 11:24

Opciones para compartir

Engineering experts have discussed the possibility of extending the Costa del Sol railway line between Malaga and Estepona underground during a forum organised by SUR.

The first 'Los Caminos del Tren Litoral' (The routes of the coastal train) forum was attended by Ángel García Vidal, representative of the Civil Engineers Association in Malaga; Carlos Miró, civil engineer; Rainer Uphoff, transport expert and general manager of Mufmi (the on-demand public transport service already implemented in several municipalities in the province), and Ignacio Jardí, civil engineer and representative of the company Ferrovial. SUR journalist Ignacio Lillo chaired the meeting.

García Vidal, Miró, Lillo, Uphoff and Jardí during the SUR forum. Photo: Ñito Salas / Vídeo: Pedro J. Quero

The experts concluded the best option for the Costa del Sol railway extension is an underground route. It should be double track to allow more or less stops and speeds, with a new route between Malaga and Fuengirola and extended to Marbella and Estepona in a first phase and, in later phases, to the Axarquia and the Campo de Gibraltar.

'Absolutely necessary'

García Vidal said there were very definite plans for the train in past decades, but years have passed without progress. "It is an essential project for development, quality of life and economy, so that this extraordinary place can continue to be so," he said.

Miró said complexity of the project is not a valid counter-argument as the train is a necessary infrastructure. "There were doubts about the AVE high-speed train network and people thought it was impossible to cross the Torcal. The job of the administrations is to convince people that it is possible," he added.

"We already have almost ten studies, it is not true that there are none. There are many possibilities. Today we are no longer talking about a line that does not go from one point to another, it is a line divided into two branches. We have to bear in mind that the coast is a key node. To do without the railway is to deny the possibility of its development. It is a project that is worth betting on and overcoming scepticism. And the central government is not doing its homework here, but it is in other places of the country. Even Galicia has its train between Coruña and Santiago," he said.

Innovation in transport

Uphoff pointed out the importance of innovation in transport. "I don't see that the train can be considered separately, it has to be part of a system. And that system has to be oriented towards the train so the train works," he said. He pointed out the train should reach Estepona "at least".

Jardí pointed out the fact that Malaga is the epicentre of the railway technology hub, with 90 partners. "We specialise in solving challenges of any size. Today a technical solution is needed. The railway cluster is ready to support and promote this train. It cannot be missed," he said.

The idea of a corridor

García Vidal pointed out the concept of a rail corridor with the Mediterranean. "Some 160 years ago, work was already carried out between the Sierra de Córdoba and Malaga. It was important work to bring in coal," he pointed out as an example. Or the access to Asturias with 50 kilometres of tunnels in Pajares for more than four billion euros. "We serve more than 1.7 million people, according to the period, and we don't have the infrastructure. In civil engineering, projects are not expensive or cheap, they are either necessary or they are not," he added. As an example, the Costa del Sol motorway would cost 3.6 billion euros today.

Ignacio Jardí echoed Vidal's words. What's more, Malaga would not be the most complex challenge, he said. "It would be just another project with its scope and investments. It is absolutely viable. Not in all its proposed options," he said. "Layout, techniques, rolling stock... everything is there," he added.

Convincing and leading

Miró said the mission is to convince people and lead the way on the project. "The scepticism of the administrations is worse than that of the citizens. That is why the Cercanías attracts 13 million passengers a year. Because of the ratio of motorways and dual carriageways, we need the train as an alternative, with a big city between Nerja and Manilva," he added.

García Vidal praised the Cercanías C1 commuter service and its numbers and its efficiency to serve the airport. He defended improvements of up to 30% in frequency of services, but not in speed. In his opinion, an additional line should be built between Malaga and Estepona to go from Nerja to Campo de Gibraltar, instead of extending the current line which ends at Fuengirola.

Jardí pointed out the coast is overcrowded and the mountains are far away, with a middle point essential for a transport option. He said the only viable option is underground.

Vidal said the railway must be built where the people are, and that routes cannot be moved away. "It would have been desirable to have reserved land. So there is no other option but to go underground, which can be done without any problem because civil engineering provides answers," he said.

An Andalusian agency?

Upphoff said the intra-regional trains should not be managed from Madrid, but an Andalusian railway agency could be the solution. Meanwhile, García Vidal added up the millions of commuters by road and train between all the travel links on the Costa, including people who travel through Malaga Airport (24 million per year) and overnight stays (15 million). "Of these 24 million people flying to Malaga, 80% arrived at the airport by train. Any of the numbers are dizzying," he said.

In ten years, the absolute collapse

Miró predicted an absolute collapse on the Costa del Sol in ten years if solutions such as the railway corridor are not provided, particularly factoring in projections such as those of Malaga Airport where 30 million people could pass through in ten years time. He said the airport railway station should be rebuilt. "The question is not whether to make the train line. Yes. The question is not how. Underground. The question is why aren't we building it now," Jardí said.

Uphoff pointed out adapting needs to those of the growing population, citing more night-time public transport services as an example. Miró closed his speech by asking municipal technicians to start thinking about the best ways of integrating the project. Ángel García Vidal pointed out large civil projects from the past in a bid to convince people the railway line can be done. "Between all of us we have to make it possible for this infrastructure to move forward. This is the time to make infrastructure policy but not to politicise infrastructures," he added.

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