HIgh-speed trains at Malaga's María Zambrano station. / M. Fernández

Rail travellers angry at lack of seats on Madrid-Malaga AVE high-speed trains

Spain's national rail operator Renfe says it is doing what it can to alleviate the problem but several factors are out of its control

IGNACIO LILLO MALAGA.

Regular rail passengers between Madrid and Malaga are furious about the disruption to their plans because of a lack of available seats on the AVE high speed trains and the number of trains that are running.

For example next Sunday, 23 October, only one of the trains from Malaga’s María Zambrano station to Madrid Atocha has any seats available, and the fare would be 101.75 euros.

On Friday, anyone wanting to come from Madrid to the Costa del Sol will find that five of the 11 trains are fully booked and fares start at 93.30 euros.

One reason that travellers are angry is that this problem seems only to affect the Malaga service. For example, none of the high-speed trains from Madrid to Valencia this Friday are fully booked, and from Madrid to Alicante just one of the 13 trains is full.

For passengers going to Seville from Madrid on Friday there will be 18 trains running (nearly twice as many as to Malaga), and four still have seats available.

Business travel also affected

Regular travellers who come to Malaga to visit family or friends at weekends say it is difficult for them to plan their journeys because they can't get home on a Sunday, but the problem is also affecting business travellers. One consultant who makes the return journey nearly every month told SUR he would be prepared to travel on a Thursday instead of Friday but those trains are often fully booked as well.

The Renfe railway operating company has said it is trying to provide as many seats as possible by using longer trains (600 seats each), but in the short term it can’t say when the number of services will return to pre-pandemic levels, when there were 14 a day.

Sources at Renfe give three reasons for this: there has been a delay in delivery of the new Avril trains, which are now expected to arrive in early 2023; there is still a shortage of qualified drivers and new high-speed lines have been opened up in Spain but the existing fleet of trains is having to cover those as well.