Monday, May 16

The first direct train between Malaga and Granada: a “historic” day for two “sister” provinces

Two sister cities are from today a little closer. For the first time, Granada and Malaga have a direct, high-speed connection by train. From now on, there will be two daily trips in each direction without transfers in the middle of the journey, as was unavoidable until now: at 7.40 and 18.50 it will depart from Granada, and at 9.25 and 20.25, from Malaga. It will take one hour and ten minutes and to fulfill its public service obligation signed with the Ministry of Transport, Renfe will increase the direct daily journeys in each direction to three. It does not yet give dates for when this will happen, which would allow returning to both cities at noon without having to wait for the afternoon/evening.

Granada is the only Spanish province with access to the sea that does not have a train on the coast

Know more

More than eight decades has Renfe operating, and until now it was not possible to travel by train from the Costa del Sol to the city of the Alhambra, and vice versa, without having to stop halfway and change trains, making the journey longer and more painful. The two cities, with close economic, social, and family ties, were further apart than the map reflects, or at least not as close as they could be.

For this reason, politicians have taken pains to highlight how “historic” this day was while the tourists, who accompanied them in the rear cars, looked at the dozens of journalists between curious and amused, surprised to participate in an event that they did not they suspected it was so extraordinary.

A train with many tourists

“It’s a luxury, and we didn’t know it,” says Katherine Batallanos, who has come from Germany with her partner, another couple of friends and their little daughter. “We wanted to travel fast, because when you go with children it is always preferable.” In addition, she believes that train travel is safer in times of pandemic: “Here there is more ventilation and space than in a bus full of tourists.”

Each week, 6,600 seats will be put on sale, at 23.10 euros per journey, which can be 8.50 if a 50-journey pass is purchased. The price of round-trip tickets will be 37 euros. The ultimate goal is to capture part of the travelers who travel on one of the more than twenty daily bus connections, which is considerably cheaper (11.83 euros) but requires more time: 1 hour and forty minutes.

In the cars that make up the convoy there are many who read in English, German, and even Polish. Hopes are high that the rail connection will facilitate tourist visits to the city of the Alhambra from the Costa del Sol. Most of those who make use of the new service are, at least for now, foreigners. For example, the Italian Serena Vacca, who goes to Granada to see the Alhambra and will return that day, on the new direct train that returns to Malaga at 6:50 p.m. The direct train runs the 168 kilometers that separate Malaga and Granada in one hour and ten minutes, with a top speed of 250 kilometers per hour. Until now, it was necessary to invest an hour and 38 minutes, with transfer in Antequera-Santa Ana.

“There is no color with the car”

Among those who launch the service there are also those who travel for work. This is the case of Mercedes Abenza, singer and teacher at the Granada Conservatory. She has her residence in Alhaurín de la Torre, and until now she used to travel by car every Monday and Friday, sharing a ride when she could to save on fuel. She is delighted: “I am very relaxed, as you can see. This is amazing!” she exclaims, looking away from her from the tablet for a moment. It is not explained how such a connection has been made to wait so long, and she foresees Granadans traveling to Malaga for the Fair or eating a skewer, and returning the same day. “There is no color with the car. Plus, that way I save myself the risk.”

Another group is made up of professors of didactics of the social sciences of the Malaga University, who will attend an international symposium in Granada. Arasy González is one of them. Until now, she used to share a car on some platform to travel to Granada. She took a similar time and paid eight euros.

Sara Houkmi travels with little Dina, tucked into her carrycot on the seat in front of her. She usually visits Malaga a couple of times a month. For them this is a great improvement, but she believes that they should have been placed in the seat reserved for people with reduced mobility, in the seat in which the authorities travel today.

Goal: 50 minutes

The direct connection is now possible thanks to the construction of a small section: 8.96 kilometers of fork, on an equivalent double track, made up of two branches: one towards Granada and the other towards Málaga. The two forks of Gobantes and Bobadilla form a high-speed rail triangle (in jargon, a bypass) that allows direct connection, avoiding the maneuver that required reaching Antequera-Santa Ana and reversing the course. Four underpasses have been necessary, two viaducts over the riverbed, another over the Las Lomas stream and a pergola over the Córdoba-Málaga high-speed line. ADIF will also offer the infrastructure to private operators in the rail sector with the aim, say those responsible, of “democratizing high speed.”

“Never nine kilometers have given so much”, celebrated the president of Renfe. The aspiration is to reduce the journey time by another fifteen or twenty minutes, so that the journey can be completed in 50 or 55 minutes. For this, the four sections of the Loja variant must be completed, of which only one is under construction and the rest are in project drafting. The forecast is that it will be ready in 2026, according to Pedro Fernández, delegate of the Government in Andalusia.

The junction will be completed with the new AVE station in Antequera, where there will be a stop, as there is already in Loja. This work is pending only the electrical connection.

Optimism of politicians

Renfe asks for time to publicize the service between people from Malaga and Granada, and assures that it has sold 1,500 tickets since it put them on sale on March 18. For the four journeys this Monday, he has sold about 150 tickets, excluding journalists and authorities, which were a few. Among others, Pedro Fernández, delegate of the Government in Andalusia, Isaías Taboas, president of Renfe, Juan Manuel Moreno, president of the Andalusian Government, Marifrán Carazo, Minister of Public Works, and Francisco de la Torre, mayor of Malaga. The service has been operated by just two people: the machinist Manuel Guerrero, and the “commercial operator on board” María José Cruz.

The new connections between Malaga and Granada are viewed with optimism, especially in Granada, where politicians and associations have spent years demanding that the railway connections be recovered and increased, which they lost entirely in 2016, due to the AVE works. In recent weeks it has recovered the third connection with Madrid and they see in the new relationship with Malaga the opportunity to delve into a strategic connection. “The city celebrates it today, but we are not satisfied”, warned Francisco Cuenca, mayor of Granada (PSOE). On the table is still its participation in the Mediterranean corridor and the “two scars” that the AVE has left in the city.

“This connection will produce economic, business and, especially, tourist synergies”, said Pedro Fernández. Malaga received 5.5 million tourists in 2021 and Granada 2.6 million. Figures still far from the record of 2019, when they were visited by just over ten and five million people, respectively. The objective is that tourists can move easily and quickly between the Costa del Sol and the city of the Alhambra.

“They are two sister provinces”, highlighted the president of the Andalusian Government, himself from Malaga and married to a Granada woman. Moreno has insisted on the need to “structure” Andalusia through an axis that runs from east to west, from Almería to Huelva. “It has taken a little longer than we all would have liked”, he later admitted.

The inauguration of the infrastructure, scheduled for June 2020, was postponed due to the pandemic. Two years later, Granada and Malaga are finally a little closer.