News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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All aboard the AndalucÍa to Valencia AVE
New high-speed link cuts journey time by more than half
By Dave Jamieson
THE AVE high-speed rail link between Andalucía and Valencia opened last Sunday. A new stretch of track in the Madrid region now links the two AVE routes into the capital, which means that the city is completely by-passed and there is no need to change trains at Atocha station. However, passengers travelling from Málaga have to change at Córdoba to pick up the service originating in Sevilla.
The journey time will be only four hours, compared with the present duration of eight and a half hours taken by Alaris trains. The one-way tourist fare has been set at 106.70 euros.
Initially, Renfe says, there will only be one departure a day from Málaga at 5pm, and the service will not run on Saturdays. The departure from Valencia will be 8.15am and it will not run on Sundays. There will be four intermediate stops at Córdoba, Puertollano, Ciudad Real and Cuenca.
Consumer watchdog says gas company overcharged
As many as 20,000 customers are owed up to 362 euros from Gas NaturalBy Oliver McIntyre
AS MANY as 20,000 consumers in Málaga province are owed up to 362 euros from Gas Natural for illegal charges between 1996 and 2004, according to consumer watchdog Consumidores y Usuarios ¡Ea!
The reimbursement is for start-of-service charges and maintenance fees (IRC) that in 2003 were found by a Córdoba court to abusive and lacking approval by the Junta de Andalucía; the ruling was upheld and became binding in September 2007.
Throughout the region the consumer group says there are more than 103,000 affected consumers, though Gas Natural has disputed the figure, saying many of these people do not have the right to the reimbursement for a variety of circumstances.
The ¡Ea! association says that on court order it obtained a list of affected customers, which it has used to create a database on its website (www.eajaen.org), which consumers can consult by entering their DNI/NIE number to see if they are eligible to file a claim for reimbursement.
ZERO TOLERANCETráfico to launch massive drug testing on drivers
By Oliver McIntyre
THOUSANDS of drivers will face random drug testing as part of a new "zero tolerance" crackdown announced last week by the Traffic Department (DGT).
Previously drug testing has been very limited but, as of July 9, random checkpoints will be carried out "on all roads, at all hours, every day of the week," said the interior minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, announcing the new policy last week along with the director general of the DGT, María Seguí.
The traffic stops will include first an alcohol test, and if that comes up negative officers will perform a simple saliva drug test: if the driver first tests positive for alcohol, the drug test will not be performed as the driver cannot be ticketed twice for the single offence of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, explained officials.
If the initial drug test gives a positive result, the driver will not be allowed to continue on his or her way, and a more sophisticated lab-based drug test will be performed.
Drivers who test positive for drugs will be ticketed, with a fine of 500 euros plus the loss of six points on their driving licence. If officers detect a clear loss of faculties in the driver, he or she could face a criminal charge, which can bring three to six months in prison, a fine or community service, as well as a one- to four-year suspension of the driving licence.
Costa doctors warn of errors due to cutbacks
Doctors, unions and health groups have presented a 21-point plan of proposed alternatives to the cuts instituted by the Junta and the Andalucía health service
By Oliver McIntyre
DOCTORS in Málaga province last week warned that the Junta de Andalucía's cuts in health care spending could cause an increase in incorrect diagnoses and treatment.
In addition to putting a heavier workload on medical staff, the cutback plan includes targets of reducing lab tests by 10 per cent and MRIs by five per cent, and increasing patient releases from hospitals by 10 per cent, said the president of the Sindicato Médico union at a press conference last week at Málaga's College of Physicians.
Fermín Parrondo stated: "With this cutback measures, the rate of errors may increase," pointing out that just a 0.2 per cent increase in errors would mean that for every 10,000 patients, 20 would receive inadequate diagnosis or treatment.
"For the first time, doctors are fearful for the health of our patients, because their care may slip from our hands due to the cuts," he said.
Crackdown on parents who fail to use child safety seats
Parents could face jail if kids die while not property buckled up
By Oliver McIntyre
PARENTS whose children are killed in a traffic accident while not riding in a child safety seat could face reckless manslaughter charges under new guidelines put forward by the prosecutor general for traffic safety, Bartolomé Vargas.
Also, parents ticketed three times for failing to have their children property buckled up will be referred to child protective services and could face losing custody of their child.
Sr Vargas based the crackdown on a report showing that, between 2008 and 2010, 46 per cent of children under 14 who died in car accidents were not using seatbelts or child safety seats and, of those who were using them, only 18 per cent had them correctly fastened. He said that 51 per cent of the children who died - the majority of them between the ages of one and two - would have survived had they been properly buckled in.
The prosecutor said the measures are not aimed at "criminalising the parents" but at raising public awareness and protecting children.
In the case of accidents where a child is killed, an investigation will determine whether they were correctly fastened up with the appropriate equipment for their age and size. If it is determined that they were not, and that if they had been they would have survived the accident, the parents could face charges of reckless manslaughter, with punishment of up to four years in prison, said the prosecutor.