Malaga – Costa del Sol | High-speed AVE rail service between Madrid and Malaga is inadequate, say angry travelers

AVE passengers arriving at the María Zambrano station in Malaga. / migue fernandez

Service has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, which train company Renfe says is due to a shortage of drivers and is affecting the whole country.

The AVE high-speed train from Madrid to Malaga from Friday April 29, at the start of the May 1 bank holiday weekend, has been fully booked for days. For the return on Monday May 2, seats were only available on the first train of the day (8:58 a.m.) during the SUR control yesterday Tuesday. You could say that’s more or less normal when a public holiday is approaching, and train company Renfe insists they have assigned longer trains to this route so that more seats are available than usual. .

But there’s something else the company doesn’t mention, but regular users of the service have noted: There were more frequent trains before the pandemic, and not all of them have resumed service. There were 14 departures each way, but now there are between 9 and 11, depending on the day of the week.

Before the pandemic, the first train left Puerta de Atocha station in Madrid at 7:35 a.m. and arrived in Malaga at 10 a.m., while the last from Madrid left at 9:20 p.m. and arrived at 11:40 p.m. There were 12 other trains in between.

Now the last train from Madrid leaves at 7:35 p.m. and many travelers are upset about this, especially those who wanted to get to Malaga later in the evening after finishing their day’s work. Renfe says these services will resume in the coming months, but gave no date.

Comparison with other cities

Compared to other cities, Malaga is not doing very well in terms of high-speed train services. On Friday, nine trains will run in each direction between Madrid and the Costa del Sol, but there will be 14 from Madrid to Seville and 15 on the way back.

According to Renfe, there were always more trains on the Seville line before the pandemic, and it still isn’t running 100%. Indeed, the service is at 77% of the pre-pandemic level between Madrid and Malaga and at 62% between the Spanish capital and Seville. However, the company insists it is compensating by making more than 4,500 extra seats available on the Madrid-Malaga line between April 28 and May 3, thanks to the use of longer trains.

So if things will go back to normal, with more trains and more frequent service, when will that be? Unfortunately, no one knows, not even Renfe. The problem is due to a shortage of drivers as many have taken other jobs during the pandemic, and this is something that applies across Spain. Much will depend on how long it takes to attract new drivers and complete their training.

Jose P. Rogers