It is claimed that Spain's national rail operator Renfe has 'forgotten' the AVE high-speed trains from Malaga to Madrid in the process of reintroducing other services after the pandemic. In recent weeks the operator has resumed 100 per cent of the Cercanías services on the Costa del Sol and Guadalhorce valley lines and has also launched the Avant direct service to Granada.
However, there are still between three and five fewer daily high-speed connections to and from the Spanish capital. This has meant packed trains, especially at weekends and makes it difficult for regular users to access the service. According to those affected, the Madrid service is becoming more and more expensive and while demand is growing, the number of trains running is not.
Renfe resumed up to 151 weekly services in April across its national network, according to statistics recently publicised by the company. Of these, 67 were commercial AVE-long distance services. Another 84 correspond to medium distance and Avant lines.
The biggest increase in high-speed service in the last month has been the inter-city Madrid-Castellón, line, which has increased by 14 trains, with some 3,900 seats. The Avant Puertollano-Madrid is back to 93 per cent of services and the AVE Granada-Madrid has resumed its third service by adding trains in the afternoon, which means that there are now three direct AVE trains per day in each direction between the two cities and is operating a 100 per cent capacity. The Madrid to Barcelona line runs 48 trains in both directions in total.
On the Costa del Sol, from the 14 departures in each direction in 2019, there are now between nine and eleven, depending on the day. Previously, the first one left Madrid’s Puerta de Atocha station at 7.35am and arrived at Malaga María Zambrano at 10am. The last one to leave Madrid daily was at 9.20pm, arriving into Malaga at 11.40pm.
The biggest concern for Malaga users is that the last train of the day, which was popular among many commuters, has not been brought back into service. The railway operator expects that these timetables, which were lost during the reorganisation of services brought about by the pandemic two years ago, will be recovered in the coming months, but no specific dates have been given.
Officially, the Madrid-Malaga service currently offers 130 weekly trains, which means that the level is approximately 77 per cent of what it was before the pandemic. The Madrid-Seville service is 148, which means it is at 62 per cent. There have been no recent improvements on that service either.
The return to 100 per cent of the service is still pending the incorporation of new train drivers, who could not be trained during the lockdown and subsequent restrictions. But the public company has emphasised that the connection between Madrid and Malaga is increased according to demand.
Other cities in the north of the country, with a much smaller population than Malaga, have also seen their connections improved. This is the case of the Alvia trains linking Pamplona and Logroño with Madrid.
With regard to the new Alvia service between Madrid and Logroño on Saturdays and Sundays, the service before the pandemic has increased by four trains a week, especially at weekends. Currently there are 14 direct trains and 30 connecting trains between Logroño and the Spanish capital.
The Vitoria-Gasteiz and Miranda de Ebro lines have already returned to the previous service with 10 extra trains running between Vitoria and Madrid. Other medium distance services that have returned to pre-pandemic frequency are the Madrid-Jaén train, with two new services and the León-Ponferrada train, with a service on Fridays.
Finally, in Aragon, four daily medium-distance services have been restored between Zaragoza, Teruel, Valencia, Alicante, Murcia and Cartagena, which is now 100 per cent back to normal. A daily train between Zaragoza and Huesca has also been restored, meaning that passengers travelling from Monday to Friday have access to all the routes that existed before the pandemic.