Missing rail links in Spain

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aformeruser

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Around the south coast it seems there are a number of missing rail links.

1: Estacion de San Roque to Gibraltar Airport - with the new terminal having a direct Spanish exit this wouldn't need to be an international train. Intermediate stations could include a central San Roque station and one on the north side La Linea. Maybe it would also make sense for Granada trains to be diverted to Gibraltar Airport with Algeciras being served by an alternative service (see 3.)

2. Much more ambitious project - Malaga to Gibraltar Airport calling at the main towns on the Costa Del Sol like Marbella. Doesn't necessarily need to be a through service but the area does seem isolated from rail links.

3. Tarifa to Estacion de San Roque via Algeciras (selected services extended to Ronda if possible.)

Any thoughts or any ideas for other Spanish rail lines?
 
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WestCoast

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There's numerous 'missing links' all over the country, you just have to look at the rail map to see that. It's partly due to a lower population density than other European countries. The gaps along the Costa del Sol (and other areas) tend to be filled by local buses and interurban coach routes from many different operators (who from my experience actually seem to work together to co-ordinate schedules, despite the services being mostly commercial).

The most comprehensive suggestion would be a coastal link from Cadiz to Malaga Airport via Tarifa, Algeciras, La Linea (for Gibraltar and Airport), Estepona, Marbella, Fuengirola and Torremolinos. Gibraltar is a political hot potato, so even if they are sharing the airport, there's no urgency to improve transport links. Gibraltar Airport doesn't have many services anyway, and that's unlikely to improve in the near future. The main flows on the coast are actually to Algeciras Port and Tarifa Port from Malaga where the important ferry links to Tangier and Ceuta leave from, and most of the people on the intercity coaches from Malaga are heading there and not Gibraltar. People heading from the coastal tourist resorts are mostly heading to Malaga Airport rather than Gibraltar Airport.

San Roque to La Linea/Gibraltar Airport (effectively a spur on the line from Ronda) sounds a good idea, but the services aren't exactly frequent from what I remember - every 2 hours or something like that. You'd have to divert some of the regional services from Granada to there instead of the all important Algeciras Port.

I have found that the best public transport outside of the large cities in Spain, is generally on the Islands. Tenerife, for example, has a very comprehensive and reliable bus network (it serves even the smallest of villages) and the tram network is also good in Santa Cruz (the capital). The devolved Canary Islands Government are trying to start building a rail link from La Laguna and Santa Cruz in the North to the the Southern tourist resorts (Las Americas/Los Cristianos/Costa del Silencio) via the South Airport and other sizable towns, but funding is a big problem at the moment.
 
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aformeruser

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The gaps along the Costa del Sol (and other areas) tend to be filled by local buses and interurban coach routes from many different operators (who from my experience actually seem to work together to co-ordinate schedules, despite the services being mostly commercial).
If you look on various travel related blogs and forums a lot talk about the services, especially those operated by Portillo buses, being unreliable and operated by vehicles in a very poor condition.

Gibraltar is a political hot potato, so even if they are sharing the airport, there's no urgency to improve transport links. Gibraltar Airport doesn't have many services anyway, and that's unlikely to improve in the near future.
That's certainly the view of the Spanish government but all of the flights to Gibraltar are from Britain. Gibraltar does not in itself have enough to occupy tourists for more than a couple of days, so trips to places in Spain are inevitable. If the public transport links aren't that good then people will take tourist minibuses which add less to the Spanish tourist economy.

San Roque to La Linea/Gibraltar Airport (effectively a spur on the line from Ronda) sounds a good idea, but the services aren't exactly frequent from what I remember - every 2 hours or something like that. You'd have to divert some of the regional services from Granada to there instead of the all important Algeciras Port.
It's not a clock face timetable and there's a couple of Intercity Algeciras-Madrid via Ronda services per day. I imagine you could get a couple of extra regional services for Gibraltar in by having them following the Intercities for Algeciras and a couple more by having Ronda turnbacks.

The trains going to Algeciras is actually down to political reasons. The British wanted to build a train line to Ronda to let the Brits in Gibraltar escape the Gibraltar weather, which is extremely humid in the summer and very wet and windy in the winter. Without political interference it would have been a Gibraltar-Ronda train line but with the Spanish had blocked off the border between La Linea and Gibraltar but still allowed people from Gibraltar to enter Algeciras via ferry, so the line was built from Algeciras.

You mention Algeciras being an important port, from an industrial point of view then yes but from a passenger point of view it took over the passenger traffic from Gibraltar due to the better transport links to the port but is now losing passenger traffic to Tarifa following the diversion of ferries in to the Tangier Med port.
 

WestCoast

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If you look on various travel related blogs and forums a lot talk about the services, especially those operated by Portillo buses, being unreliable and operated by vehicles in a very poor condition.
Purely anecdotal, but that wasn't my experience. Last year, I took the bus from Malaga to Estepona, Estepona to La Linea and then a local bus from La Linea to Algeciras - you can of course catch an Express or semi-fast service all the way through. You buy the tickets at an office at the bus station (if there is one) and are guaranteed a seat, the timetable said Portillo but the vehicles were supplied by another firm (can't remember the name but they were green and silver). The coaches were very modern, but one of the buses was 15 minutes late. After using the buses in Morocco, Portillo seemed organised and perfectly acceptable (of course a lot of the tourists/expats never venture across the water!).
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That's certainly the view of the Spanish government but all of the flights to Gibraltar are from Britain. Gibraltar does not in itself have enough to occupy tourists for more than a couple of days, so trips to places in Spain are inevitable. If the public transport links aren't that good then people will take tourist minibuses which add less to the Spanish tourist economy
The Spanish effectively ignore Gibraltar, the devolved Government in Andalusia would be basing demand on the border town of La Linea, which is of very little interest to tourists. They would be paying for it, letting Gibraltar contribute towards the financing would probably be seen as some sort of defeat. Yes, some of the officials are that petty about the place (note the lack of Gibraltar road signs on the Autopista from Marbella!). From my experience, the local bus services around in Gibraltar Bay/Bahia de Algeciras are OK.

As for sharing the airport, well, Iberia and another airline had services to Spanish destinations about 4-5 years ago and they were all withdrawn.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
You mention Algeciras being an important port, from an industrial point of view then yes but from a passenger point of view it took over the passenger traffic from Gibraltar due to the better transport links to the port but is now losing passenger traffic to Tarifa following the diversion of ferries in to the Tangier Med port.
I travelled on the ferries as well. The most important ports are still Algeciras and Cadiz, it's easier to reach Algeciras by road than Tarifa and there is a lot of vehicular traffic as well as foot passengers crossing the water. There are 4+ ferry lines (Baleria, Comarit, Trasmediterranea e.t.c) from Algeciras to Tangier Med and Ceuta (the Spanish overseas territory) - departures at least every hour. From Tarfia and Gibraltar to Tangier Ville there is just one company - FRS, the Gibraltar service is very infrequent. FRS run a bus shuttle from Algeciras to Tarifa to collect passengers!

FRS from Tarifa/Gibraltar tends to appeal more to tourists, porbably because they still go to the old Tangier Ville port and the company offers touring packages e.t.c. It's a fast catamaran service and that is reflected in the ticket prices. Much of the traffic still uses Algeciras and are delivered to the new facility at Tangier Med. There is however a free coach service from Tangier Med to Tangier City.

Cadiz serves all the ferries to the Canaries and is thus of prime importance.
 
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aformeruser

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the timetable said Portillo but the vehicles were supplied by another firm (can't remember the name but they were green and silver).
A lot of the buses/coaches in the area are a dual livery for the operator and the transport body - like the Northern class 333 trains and some just mention the transport body not the operator. The transport body has a green livery.

Here's information about the local transport body (in Spanish but if you view in Chrome it'll offer you the option of a poor English translation):
http://www.ctmcg.es/
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consorcio_de_Transporte_Metropolitano_del_Campo_de_Gibraltar
 

Eire Sprinter

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One link I find interesting is the cross-border link from Spain to France via Canfranc.

There's a Renfe station at Canfranc. There's a mighty building at the station but it seems not to be used. Pre-1970 the line continued into France. However apparently due to a train accident at a nearby bridge the line didn't reopen.

There's a SNCF-TER bus from Canfranc station to Oloron-Sainte-Marie (nearest point on French rail system) which effectively would be a rail replacement service.

The line for some miles south from Oloron-Sainte-Marie to Bedous is to be reopened to passengers. I understand work is currently underway. Not sure if there's track in situ south of Bedous towards Canfranc or if perhaps it was incorporated into a road scheme. Wikipedia states that the former Somport railway tunnel is used as an emergency lane for the motorway tunnel.
 
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