EXCLUSIVE by James Bryce
EXPATS living in Cadiz, Malaga and Granada could be dealt a huge blow after the passenger train service between Algeciras and Granada was threatened with closure.
The route is one of several which could be scrapped by operator Renfe, which is failing to generate enough income to cover its €478 million annual running costs.
All regional parties, including the PP party, have opposed the move, while the CC.OO trade union has not ruled out protest action.
The mayor of Algeciras Jose Landaluce said he was ‘extremely concerned’ about the closure, which would affect thousands of students attending Granada university, as well as travellers using Algeciras port.
The closure would be bad news for the scores of expat businesses along the line who rely on income from hikers and day-trippers.
“It will have a huge impact on us,” said Benaojan-based hotelier Andy Chapell, of Molino del Santo.
“We get up to 3,000 people a year coming to us for lunch having arrived by train and for many people travelling by train is all part of the experience.
“A lot of our guests also use it for day trips to places like Gibraltar and Tarifa and my daughter uses it to get to school.”
Fellow expat Paul Darwent, who runs Bar Allioli in Jimera de Libar agreed the possible closure would be bad for business.
“I wasn’t aware that it was being considered for closure but it will have a big impact and will inconvenience a lot of people,” he said.
“We get a lot of business from walkers using the line. There are at least four or five people on each train and the numbers are a lot higher on weekends and holidays.”
The transport ministry is due to submit a list of the most costly lines around Spain at the end of the year, with a view to axing the least financially viable.
According to reports, a total of 328 stations in Spain receive no more than five passengers a day, 29 of which are used by no more than 10 passengers a year.
In 2011, the lines generated an income of €190 million, barely 40% of the €478 million cost and leaving Renfe with a deficit of €288 million.