MÁLAGA – From now on, there will be 34 fewer daily trains from Malaga to Fuengirola (32 fewer) and Málaga – Álora (2 fewer) lines. The cause of the cancellation of services is a chronic shortage of train drivers in the province.
After days of chaos, Renfe made the decision to reduce the number of trains running on the two lines of the local train service Cercanías in Málaga. This is a reduction of one third of the number of daily trains on that route. Earlier this week, the unexpected cancellation of trains from the timetable resulted in chaos. Until now, the line had been regarded as frequent and reliable. As a result, it has high passenger numbers.
The Cercanías line between Málaga and Fuengirola, stops not only at Málaga airport but also the popular coastal towns of Torremolinos and Benalmádena. The passenger numbers make it the busiest local train service in all of Spain.
Driver training underway
According to Renfe, the problem will be solved in the coming months if a new batch of train drivers successfully complete their training. However, Renfe is not making any promises, regarding the resumption of the cancelled services.
In recent days, the disruption also arose due to the unexpected breakdown of trains. Tourists who use the line to travel from their hotel to the airport were particularly affected. For example, 40 trains were cancelled on Wednesday, including 36 on the C1 line between Málaga and Fuengirola. This number represents one third of the total number of daily trains on that route.
Why is there a shortage of drivers?
The driver shortage has existed for some time, because lots of drivers retired in a short space of time. Last week, two more drivers were transferred to the AVE high-speed train service. A few more departures will follow because of drivers reaching retirement age in December.
According to Renfe, the solution will soon follow when the more than 900 operators, now in training, at the national level are added to the workforce in the coming months. However, that does not guarantee the now discontinued services will return.
The mayor of Málaga – Francisco de la Torre – spoke out about the problem, saying he is surprised that a public company like Renfe has not been able to plan ahead to avoid shortages.
Damage the reputation of Málaga
De la Torre fears the problems with the popular train service will damage the image of the city. The train is frequently used by tourists along the coast to visit Málaga for a day. The last stop is right in the centre. It solves the issue of looking for parking spaces and paying the high parking costs in the city centre.
The national government points to the previous right-wing conservative government as the cause of the problems at Renfe. Even though the Social Democratic government has been in control of the country since 2018, the austerity measures of their predecessors are said to be at the root of the deficits.