Costa del Sol News - 4th November 2011

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Saudi rail deal to benefit Málaga

The rolling stock and locomotives will be built at the city's Los Prados workshops

By Dave Jamieson

MÁLAGA is set to benefit from a 6.7 billion euro contract to build a high-speed rail line in Saudi Arabia.

The Renfe workshops at Los Prados in the city will be involved in the construction of rolling stock and locomotives for the line between Mecca and Medina.

The Spanish-led consortium, Al-Shoula, has been competing with consortia from a number of other countries, and since August 13 has been meeting representatives of the Saudi Railways Organisation in the last stages of negotiations. The consortium is composed of 12 Spanish companies, including Talgo and Renfe, plus two Saudi businesses.

Last week, an announcement published on the rail operator's web page confirmed that the consortium had agreed to all the issues under discussion and that it had been chosen to develop the entire second phase of a new high-speed rail link in the country. The contract includes the tracks, 35 trains, electric systems and overhead power lines, telecommunication systems, the launch of the service and maintenance for the first 12 months.

The trains to be built in Málaga will be similar to those already in use on Spain's AVE services, but they will have a greater capacity, each carrying up to 450 passengers. They will also be specially adapted to cope with local conditions of heat, sand and humidity.

Their top speed will be 330 kilometres per hour and there is an option for the Saudi Railways Organisation to purchase a further 23 trains, in addition to the initial 35 now ordered.

Drivers take to Málaga's new motorways

It was announced last week that use of the new toll road will be free of charge at night

By Dave Jamieson

MORE than 17,000 vehicles used the new toll motorway north of Málaga during its first 12 hours of opening last Friday. The AP46 has been built to relieve chronic congestion on the A46 road heading north from Málaga towards Antequera, and was free of tolls during its inaugural day.

Now, drivers must pay 3.05 euros to travel along it, a fee which will increase to 4.60 euros between June to September, and during Easter week. However, it was announced on Thursday that use of the new toll road will be free of charge at night. For light vehicles, there is no charge between midnight and 6am, while heavy vehicles can travel free between 10pm and 8am.

There are also discounts of between five and 20 per cent for regular users, for return journeys made within 48 hours, for the disabled and for those over 65 years old. The discounts are linked to the electronic toll paying system.

The 28-kilometre autovía has seven kilometres of bridges and viaducts, plus 2.2 kilometres of tunnels. The concession operator Guadalcesa said that on its first day around 3,000 vehicles an hour were using the road which cuts the journey time between Málaga and Antequera to just 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, the full opening of Málaga's northern ring road last Thursday has proved a success with motorists. With through traffic now able to completely by-pass the city centre on the new A7, the existing motorway - now renamed the MA20 - was described as being as quiet as on a Sunday. Chronic tailbacks around the city's conference centre were absent, although there were the usual delays at a number of exits. Official estimates suggest that half the traffic which travelled through Málaga on the old A7 will now use the new relief road.

Major boost for Guadalhorce Cercanías line

The Málaga-Álora C-2 line gets 25 per cent increase in trains on November 7

By Oliver McIntyre

THE C-2 Cercanías line between Málaga and Álora will see a major boost in service beginning on November 7, with 25 per cent more trains and shorter wait times.

The current 22 trains a day will jump to 28 - 14 in each direction - and on weekdays and the frequency of service at peak times will be 60 minutes, improving connections with the C-1 Málaga-Fuengirola line and with other Renfe services out of Málaga, said officials.

The announcement was made last week by the socialist PSOE's president in Málaga and congressional candidate, Miguel Ángel Heredia, who took a ride on the C-2 line along with other PSOE candidates and the mayors of Cártama, Pizarra and Álora (all also PSOE), who have long been lobbying for improved service on the line.

Sr Herredia said that, apart from benefitting current train users, the service increase is aimed at boosting ridership on the C-2 line by around 25 per cent, to a million passengers a year.

The mayors of Cártama, Pizarra and Álora - Jorge Gallardo, Francisco Vargas and José Sánchez respectively - said they will carry out local campaigns to promote the train service.

The C-2 line, which covers its 37-kilometre route a little over a half-hour, is currently used by around 2,000 people a day.


Town hall street-light war leaves A7 drivers in the dark

By David Eade

THE street lighting on the A7 dual carriageway as it passes through Estepona and parts of Manilva has been cut off for nearly two weeks, and drivers could soon find themselves in the dark along stretches of the road in Mijas, Fuengirola and Marbella as the town halls halt electricity payments, saying the lighting is the responsibility of the Public Works Ministry.

In September the mayors of the towns wrote to Public Works demanding that the ministry begin paying for the A7 lighting, as well as reimburse the town halls millions of euros they have paid for the lighting over the last 15 years.

Estepona was the first to see the lights go out and Fuengirola announced it would stop paying beginning Tuesday of this week, followed by Mijas on Wednesday - though MIjas said it would keep the lights on at the dangerous La Cala curve. It is understood Marbella may hold out a little longer for a response from Public Works before halting payment.

The Manilva stretch currently has lighting only at a few roundabouts and danger zones, and the town hall says it will continue paying for that until the end of the year and then decide how to move forward.

Estepona claims it is owed three million euros for past lighting bills, Mijas around a million euros, Fuengirola 600,000 euros and Marbella more than three million euros.

The town halls have contacted not only Public Works but also Endesa to inform it to take the electricity contracts of their names. Once that is put into effect for all the towns, the lights could go out along a total of 71 kilometres of the dual carriageway.

Fuengirola bomb was aimed at international reaction

High Court hears final arguments from prosecutor in trial of alleged ETA members

By David Eade

THE prosecutor has stated in the High Court that the ETA bomb attack in Fuengirola on June 21, 2002, was not only an attempt to seek national attention but also to generate an international reaction. It coincided with a summit of the European Union being held in Sevilla.

Miguel Ángel Carbello was making his final submission to the trial being held in the High Court in which members of the ‘Comando Argala' are in the dock. They are ETA members Andoni Otegi and Oskar Zelarain, for whom the prosecution is seeking a jail term of 146 years each for setting off the car bomb, which was left in front of a Fuengirola hotel.

Nobody was killed in the attack but six people were injured and compensation of 100,000 euros is being sought. However the prosecutor says the fact nobody was killed was an "authentic miracle" and the car bombs were of sufficient strength to cause "incalculable" carnage.

Benefit cheats will be caught, warns UK

Investigators catch British expat who pleads guilty to £15,000 fraud

NEWS Staff Reporter

THE VAST majority of people who claim UK benefits are honest, law-abiding citizens, but there are those who continue to cheat the system... and who continue to get caught.

One such cheat was James Bowery, 54, from Harrowside, Blackpool. For years he enjoyed life in Spain, living off UK income support, a non-exportable benefit, without telling the DWP that he had moved to Málaga. In total he fraudulently claimed over £15,000. Having been caught, he pleaded guilty to benefit fraud at Blackpool Magistrates Court in September and was sentenced to a three-month curfew order, restricting his freedom to leave home - and of course he has to pay the money back.

Many assume that benefit fraud only occurs when someone receives a benefit, such as Job Seekers Allowance or incapacity benefit, and fails to tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) when they start working.

But people who are in receipt of UK benefits have a responsibility to tell the DWP about any change in their circumstances, such as moving in with a partner, changing address, or going or moving abroad, say government officials.

The DWP will soon be imposing a civil penalty on those who fail to keep them updated. For people who fail to take reasonable care of their claim, perhaps knowingly letting a change in circumstances run on and incurring a small overpayment, the DWP will swiftly apply a £50 civil penalty as a punishment to deter them from such action in future. Deliberately withholding information that affects a benefit claim is a crime.

Guarded response to ETA ‘cessation'

Basque terror group announces end of violence but does not disarm

By Dave Jamieson

LAST Thursday's announcement by ETA of a "definitive cessation" to bombings and shootings has been given a guarded welcome. Some, however, do not believe the terrorist group has gone far enough.

ETA's move came three days after a peace conference in San Sebastián attended by international delegates including Kofi Annan, Gerry Adams and Bertie Ahern, which called on the Basque separatists to end their armed struggle.

A video showed three individuals dressed in black with white masks covering their faces reading a statement which expressed a "clear, firm and definitive" undertaking to overcome armed confrontation and called on both the Spanish and French governments to open a direct dialogue with them.

Reacting quickly to the announcement, Prime Minister Zapatero called it a "victory for democracy, law and reason," while opposition leader Mariano Rajoy said it was an "important step," adding that Spain's peace of mind would only be complete once ETA was disbanded.

The defence minister, meanwhile, indicated that the government is not prepared to do deals with ETA. Speaking on television last Friday, Carmé Chacon said, "There is nothing to negotiate with ETA," adding that the group had not achieved any of its aims and that the decades "of pain and crime have not benefitted them at all".

Leonard Cohen gets Spanish Nobel

Other honourees include Fukushima heroes and London Royal Society

By Dave Jamieson

THE glittering annual ceremony to present the Príncipe de Asturias Awards to their recipients was held in Oviedo last Friday night. Prince Felipe praised the achievements of the winners of the eight awards, saying that they would instil in others "the passion to create and the will to innovate."

Spain's crown prince also took the opportunity to comment on the previous day's announcement of an end to acts of terrorism by ETA. It was, he said, "a great victory" for the rule of law.

A warm welcome was given to the Heroes of Fukushima, recipients of the Concord prize. These are the employees of Japan's crippled nuclear plant who worked to contain the emergency after March's earthquake and tsunami. They were represented by two policemen and two soldiers, plus Toyohiko Tomioka who led a team of fire-fighters in efforts to cool the plant. In his acceptance speech, he said they would continue to work towards the safety of the Japanese people, ending with a rousing "¡Viva España!"

The winner of the Letters award, 77-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, revealed hitherto unknown connections with Spain in his acceptance speech. He told how his love of the country had been born through the hands of a young Spaniard who played flamenco guitar in a park near his home in Montreal. Cohen said he took private classes from the player for the few days it took to learn six chords. He explained that these chords had been "the base of all my songs, of all my work."

The Italian conductor, Riccardo Muti, took the Arts award, while the winners of the prize of Technical and Scientific Research, Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, Jospeh Altman and Giacomo Rizzolatti, won for their work in neurobiology. London's Royal Society won the Communications and Humanities Award, developmental psychologist Howard Gardner collected Social Sciences, and social entrepreneur Bill Drayton took International Cooperation. The Sports award went to Ethiopia's long-distance runner Haile Gebreselassie.

Each recipient was awarded 50,000 euros and a sculpture by Joan Miró, plus a diploma and insignia bearing the Prince of Asturias Foundation coat of arms.