Tranvia de Velez-Málaga
Velez-Malaga to Torre del Mar defunct Tram
As you drive into Velez Malaga you may noticed tram line that connects the town with its coastal sister town in Torre del Mar. No need to slow down and look both ways before crossing.
Construction began in 2003 of the 6km and 12 stations the southern phase between the two towns opened on 11 October 2006 at a cost of 46 million € and closed in 4th June 2012.
In the initial phase that was first opened the tram line was not connected through to the city center of Vélez-Málaga, passengers had to alight at Parque Jurado Lorca station and change to a bus to complete the journey. The competing bus service was also retained. Passenger number fell from 890,000 in 2007 to 676,000 in 2011 where the original estimates were 1.2m passengers. The ticket price to the tram operator was 1,82 euros, the passenger paid 1,30€ and the difference was paid by the town hall.
Construction on the extension of 1.2 km from Parque Jurado Lorca station to Esplanada de la Estación (Bus station) near the Vélez-Málaga city center began in 2008 and was completed in 2011. Due to a financial dispute between the operator Travelsa and the city council the extension was never put in to service.
Although none serious the Tranvia did experience an elevated number of accidents, the local police registered 30 incidents in the first year of operation. This was mainly vehicles not stopping at traffic lights or lorries damaging the track. On the 25th May 2009 a tram did not stop at the terminus but continued along the unopened extension track much to the surprise of parked cars and was brought to a stop by a slight head on with a lorry carrying flour.
There were three tram car units in service on the Tranvia, a model called Urbus made by ‘Constructionies y Auxiliar de Ferrocariles'. These are the same low platform designs used in the Seville Metro and the Malaga Metro. They are standard gauge and bi-directional with a drivers cab at each end. Five cars make a travelling unit. Maximum speed is 70km per hour. Capacity 54 passengers seated and 226 standing.
Anecdotally the three moth-balled tram units were leased and transported to the light rail network in Sydney, Australia, painted red and entering service in March 2014 for untill November while Sydney was awaiting the construction and delivery their own brand new Urbos 3 tram units. The units which cost 9m to build, and are owned by the operator until the end of the consession in 2030 are stored in Velez-Malaga.
In 2012 The Junta de Andalucia offered to the Velez-Malaga town hall a 40% subsidy on the runnning costs the line. The town hall is now having to finance the maintenance of the line estimated at 3m€ over the period 2012 to 2017 . The estimated up-front cost to bring it back to service is 1.2m €. In 2018 the 'Camara de Cuentas de Andalucia' requested a feasibility study.
The tram is a common topic in the town both as a symbol of municipal waste and a political football between the parties. In general it si recognised in the industry that 80.000 population is not sufficient to make a tram viable, 300.000 is a minimum. However the geography of Velez-Malaga is ideal, a town 5km inland from the coast and its 'twin' resort of Torre del Mar.