News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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No Ronda trains for three to six months
By David Eade
Railway lines in the Ronda area have been undergoing round the clock improvements for many months to pave the way for the AVE high speed service. Now the railway infrastructure company, Adif, has announced that the Ronda railway line will close for three months from October 25 or 26 - although it could take up to six - as the crews move down the track towards Cortes de la Frontera.
Commuter, Madrid and freight services have continued running through the upheaval but work on the tracks between Ronda and San Pablo de Buceite sees crews having to tackle very difficult terrain. The area is mountainous with numerous tunnels and technicians have opted to close the line.
This will mean the suspension of the Bobadilla - Ronda - Algeciras commuter line as well as the twice daily service to Madrid. An alternative bus service will be set up to transport travellers and those wishing to go to Madrid will be taken to Málaga or Bobadilla for the AVE connection.
Freight trains will also be affected, so containers will be transported by road to Sevilla or Córdoba for further rail transportation. However the move has been welcomed by both Algeciras port and the heavy industry in the bay. Currently only one or two per cent of Spain's freight goes by rail compared with 70 per cent in wider Europe. The APBA says the electrification of the line and doubling of the track for the future AVE service is "magnificent news".
Cádiz MP, Salvador de la Encina, who is also the spokesperson for the Comisión de Infraestructuras in Congress, stated that a report on the project's progress will be given around December 20. The upgrade of the 160-kilometre section will be carried out on a 24 hour basis but it could be extended from three to six months depending on progress.
Luxury home robbery gang busted
Officials say group was set to launch wave of break-ins in Guadalhorce valley
By Oliver McIntyre
The Guardia Civil have broken up a gang who are alleged to have committed at least 20 luxury-home robberies and who officials say were set to launch a wave of break-ins in the Guadalhorce valley. Officers arrested eight people and seized stolen property and drugs valued at over two million euros, said the Interior Ministry.
The investigation, code-named Operation Tartavell, was launched in May after a member of the public alerted authorities to the presence of a group of Eastern Europeans living a high lifestyle in a luxury Mijas Costa home, with no apparent legitimate means of income.
The Guardia Civil's organised crime unit began tracking the group and identified one of them as a known criminal with several previous convictions. Officers watched as the three Albanian men, and two Romanian women who lived with them, went out on regular spending sprees at luxury clubs, restaurants and stores.
When investigators learned the gang was about to launch a series of home break-ins in the Guadalhorce valley, they swooped in to make the arrests. They picked up the three Albanian men and two Romanian women, plus three Spanish men.
Officials say the Albanians would scout out homes and then commit night-time break-ins, often while the owners were at home asleep. They disabled alarm systems and acted silently, taking cash, jewellery and other valuables. They sometimes made off with the homeowners' cars, which they sold to the three Spaniards, who used them for drug trafficking.
Film Academy snubs Almodóvar in Oscar selections
Spain's most famous director's latest film, starring Penelope Cruz, not on shortlist
By Dave Jamieson
The stormy relationship between Spain's best-known film director and the country's Film Academy appears to be raging on. A Pedro Almodóvar movie starring Penelope Cruz has not made it to a shortlist for the Oscars.
The three films shortlisted for entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category were announced by the Academy last week and the judges have not included Almodóvar's Broken Embraces. The movie, described as tribute to the film noir genre, stars Madrid-born Cruz and has received favourable reviews abroad. However, critics at home were not so kind and, although remaining silent on the latest apparent snub, Almodóvar has in the past complained that his work is not as valued in Spain as it is elsewhere, and particularly in France. Almodóvar also resigned as a member of the Academy after a disagreement on voting rules for the Goya prizes for the arts, Spain's equivalent of the UK's Bafta Awards.
The three films which have been selected include The Dancer and the Thief from director Fernando Trueba, who picked up the foreign-language movie Oscar in 1993 for Belle Époque. Also listed is Isabel Coixet's romantic thriller Map of the Sounds of Tokyo, and Gordos, which is the work of 39-year-old Daniel Sanchez Arevalo, who was named as best new director in Spain's Goya awards two years ago. The judges are due to make their final selection on Tuesday.