Friday, 27 October 2023, 14:42
An innovative plan to run a new train line to Marbella on stilts along the middle of the A-7 coastal motorway has received interest from local authorities, according to the public transport consultant who proposed the idea.
Putting the line on a viaduct over the road, rather than more expensive tunnelling or compulsory land purchase, could now be considered as a possible solution to the decades-old call for rail services the length of the Costa del Sol.
Lluis Sanvicens is a Malaga-based expert in urban transit networks. An engineer by trade with a Master's in Transportation Sciences and more than 24 years of professional experience, he has held various positions in companies such as Alstom, Ardanuy and Málaga Metro, working on both the construction and operations.
"Married to a Malaga woman and father to a little Malaga fella," this 49-year-old, who is originally from Catalonia, defines his professional life as "wanting to help the world walk, pedal or take public transport".
It is the coming together of these two aspects - his professional and personal connection with the province and his desire to deliver ideas for more sustainable transport - that has led to his plan entitled A Study of the Costa del Sol Metro: a proposal to give structure to the area.
"I came here almost 20 years ago and there was already talk about this idea, and over all those years in Malaga I keep hearing that it is very difficult to do and very expensive,".....
"So I told myself that I would give it some thought, to see what could be done and to make it feasible, maintaining the current service, making improvements and looking at how to take the line to Marbella."
On one hand, he admits he was driven by the desire to "give back to Malaga" a little of what this part of the world has given him: "A wife, a child and a job". On the other, the desire to be able to demonstrate his skills to potential clients. The whole concept has been laid out in a technical document that the specialist has made freely available to the relevant authorities.
The consultant has studied each stretch of the current Costa del Sol's local train line plus what remains to be built. Currently trains run at 20-minute intervals, limited by several single track sections. "There are ways to improve," was his conclusion.
To begin with, he focused on the single-track sections [that slow down the service] that could easily be laid out into two tracks.
His conclusion was that leaving the entire existing route with only 4km of single track is achievable
Therefore, the first priority for now is to carry out this improvement to the infrastructure of the existing metro-style Cercanías line that already connects Malaga via Benalmádena to Fuengirola.
Based on those observations, the consultant recommends extending the existing Cercanías local train line from Fuengirola to Marbella, rather than going for a separate high-speed service to Marbella leaving Malaga.
"A means of transport that connects the entire Costa del Sol and takes the traffic load off the N-340 [A-7] as people realise they are properly supported by a train service." In his opinion, it is feasible to have trains running every 10 minutes linking up the entire western coast.
Extending the Cercanías route beyond Fuengirola has been examined in previous studies. However, this engineer's more innovative idea is to extend it over a large, raised viaduct built up from the central reservation of the A-7 [old N-340] to Marbella so it would not interfere with road traffic. The new route would start from a tunnel crossing under Fuengirola, then a long viaduct and again an underground entrance into the centre of Marbella. It could even be built in phases, so that the current train service would see the first benefits much sooner.
In total, this project would cover 61 kilometres, with 31 strategically located train stations. In addition to six stops in Malaga city, five in Torremolinos, three in Benalmádena and six in Fuengirola, the line would add four in Mijas and seven in Marbella.
"With this idea we can build a Greater Malaga, as we would have closer links with the other towns, and it is a means of giving structure to the whole area with a proper option for sustainable transport."
Sanvicens has said he has had interest in his idea from the Junta de Andalucía regional government and the local political parties.
He said, "The idea has been very well received by representatives of the Junta, the PP party and PSOE party in Malaga, as the authorities that can do it are the national and regional governments."
Ignacio López Cano, a local PSOE MP told SUR. "The solution of a train on a viaduct has caught my attention as I had never thought about doing it that way."
José Ramón Carmona, secretary-general of the PP party in Malaga province said, "We have been in touch with the author of the plan and we are going to study it with a view to forwarding any proposals to central government."
The proposal of Luis Sanvicens includes constructing 25km of elevated tracks over the A-7 with eight stops
The most impressive part of his proposal has to be the stretch running between Fuengirola and Marbella, where he plans the viaduct rising above the N-340/A7.
"Wherever possible, the track supports will be located within the central reservation of the dual carriageway, while in other areas they will be on the roadside running as a colonnade of arches."
This section would be completed with an elevated train station in Fuengirola, four in the suburban area of Mijas and three on the outskirts of Marbella. In total, this would involve constructing 25km of elevated tracks with eight stops. "This solution exists in other cities, and for many more kilometres."
The scoping project has appraised the following: how many metres of single track that must be converted to double, the proposed underpasses and viaducts, and the remodelling of stations and railway signalling. According to his calculations, the entire project can be done for about 1.7 billion euros, well below the 2.4 billion estimated to date in studies done for the Ministry of Transport.
Last but not least, journey time could even be reduced to 50 minutes from end to end via an express service between Malaga and Marbella with limited stops (airport then one central stop at each municipality).
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