Traffic jams in Marbella / josele

Long delays despite increase in Marbella bus services

The town hall’s public awareness campaign did little to combat hour-long waiting times in August

DAVID LERMA

"The problem we are having in the transport department is that the public transport system is completely saturated. Up to two bus services on the same route can be held up at the same time", admitted Enrique Rodríguez, the councillor responsible for the area. "In the end, the timetables cannot be kept to. When you ask the bus users they always express the same resignation."

Ana María, who works in a clothes shop in San Pedro de Alcántara, consults the mobile application of Avanza, the public transport concessionaire in Marbella. "It's the same nightmare every day this summer. I try to leave an hour in advance, because I never know what I'm going to find".

It is 12pm on Wednesday 10 August at the Alameda bus stop, one of the most important public transport hubs in the town. Users remain patient, despite their frustration. Ana María says that the stretch between Nueva Andalucía, Puerto Banús and San Pedro de Alcántara "is terrible".

On 29 July councillors unanimously agreed, for the sixth time, a motion to widen a stretch of the A-7 affecting this area of the town to three lanes. However, it is the central government that would be responsible for the construction. The only representative of the Ciudadanos party at the town hall, María García, also proposed the need to erect a pedestrian walkway to connect the Nueva Andalucía district with Puerto Banús.

Accumulated delays

In the meantime, users are experiencing delays of up to an hour this month. Like Erik and Nathalie from Switzerland who have been at the Puerto Banús stop for ten minutes. "Yesterday we were waiting fifty minutes to go to the centre," they say.

The councillor for transport says that "if vehicle traffic gets out of control first thing in the morning, at midday or mid-afternoon, the transport service is affected, even if we have more buses. And the delays accumulate throughout the day".

Back in mid-July, Enrique Rodríguez presented the special public transport service for the three summer months, which at the time was expected to exceed 1.5 million journeys. "In summer the demand for this service increases by 25 percent compared with the rest of the year," he said at the time, but those forecasts have been exceeded. "The problem would not be solved by putting on more buses," he admitted in August.

According to the town hall, 32 per cent of the total year’s use on public transport is between 15 June and 15 September. Line one, which runs from La Cañada, through Marbella and on to Puerto Banús, have increased from 84 to 104 journeys.

Exponential growth

On paper the figures for the use of urban public transport are good. According to reports from the town hall, in the first half of 2022 alone the urban transport service exceeded 2.5 million passengers; 21 percent more than last year. "These are very positive figures that show exponential growth and reflect the commitment of citizens to sustainable travel at a time when fuel prices have skyrocketed," said Rodríguez.

At the time, he specified that 83 per cent had been made with the Municipal Mobility Card, which has been free for those registered in the town since 2019 and which has 72,000 active users and users have increased by 113 per cent compared to 2019, when 1.2 million journeys were made throughout the year. The increase has been helped by the creation of new lines, such as 12, 13 and 6B.

Part of the problem is the long queues when people get on the bus. Despite the mobility card, many users still pay in cash. "Fares have been frozen since 2006, but cash "penalises commercial speed, as it means that the driver has to give change back to the 20 per cent of users, usually tourists, who use the bus service but do not use the top-up cards".

The problem, Enrique Rodríguez acknowledges, also lies in the town’s infrastructure which means that the use of private vehicles is inevitable, "which we do not contemplate restricting, despite the fact that we only have a single road". Instead the town hall wants to appeal to private vehicle users to consider alternatives to using their own cars.