AVE - Granada to Antequera History

AVE the High-speed long-distance train routes in Andalucia
AVE the High-speed long-distance train routes in Andalucia

History of the AVE ANTEQUERA - GRANADA ROUTE

This is a page about the polemic history for the Granada to Antequera High speed train line. For a description of the route click here.

It is worth recording that this original broad-gauge line between Granada and Loja was opened on 10th December 1866 and Bobadilla  to Loja in sections up to 1874 with the Rio Frio being the last . It was constructed by the Compañía del Ferrocarril de Córdoba a Málaga, who had opened their line (as the name suggests) to transport goods from the mines and industries of Córdoba to the port of Málaga in 1865. In 1877 the line passed into the hands of Compañía de los Ferrocarriles Andaluces, commonly known as "Los Andaluces", until railway nationalisation and the formation of Renfe in 1941. This is why Granada station is often still referred to as 'Estacion Andaluces".

Following the successful opening of the AVE line from Málaga to Cordoba on 24 December 2007. The 122 km spur line from Antequera to Granada was advanced.  The route is part of a larger project called the "Eje ferroviario transversal de Andalucía" (Andalucía railway cross link) which will ultimately connect Huelva, Sevilla, Antequera, Granada and Almería.  

Construction of this new AVE Antequera to Granada line commenced in 2008 with civil engineering works on the relatively easy 17km Loja - Tocón sub-section. This was carried out by the Junta de Andalucía (Andalucia Regional Government) rather than the Ministerio de Fomento (National Government, Ministry of Development) as the regional government were politically eager to show progress on the cross link. 

The construction involved bringing the new high-speed lines into Granada station, which required the "temporary" closure (which turned out to be 1.542 days) of the old broad-gauge Bobadilla to Granada service. Granada station was closed in April 2015 and Renfe provided special coaches to ferry passengers to Antequera Santa Ana. This closure also included the Granada to Madrid line via Jaen and the Dispeñaperros gorge. 

With the works ostensibly completed by October 2017, local media optimistically reported that Granada might have a train service again by the end of that year. Nothing was confirmed and Íñigo de la Serna the (Partido Popular) Minister of Development notably avoided Granada, choosing Antequera to make a statement.   

By December 2017 ADIF were running their special four-coach track-testing laboratory train, giving rise to optimisation that the Granada train service would be resumed shortly. A professional video of the train speeding along was distributed to media.

In April 2018 there were again protests in Granada to mark three years without a train service.

In May 2018 ADIF sent the results of the line tests to the government agency responsible for railway safety, whose statute gives them a month to respond. ADIF ran an AVE train set into Granada on May 24th, however Renfe admitted that circulation tests and driver training still had not commenced.

On July 3rd 2018 the Luis Salvador the (Cuidanos) Mayor of Granada travelled to Madrid to meet José Luis Ábalos the new (PSOE) Minister for Development, and subsequently reported that he had been told there were computer problems with the crossover at Íllora (east of Loja) and there would be no further news until the minister visited Granada in September.  

The September 25th 2018 visit by José Luis Ábalos arriving into Granada on the ADIF test train, the visit to check the security of the line was well publicise, vague assurances of the full service staring before next summer were given. He announced the restoration of a one daily Granada to Madrid AVANT service via Jaen and the Dispeñaperros gorge.  

On 12 December 2018 ADIF gave permission to RENFE to begin running test AVE trains on the line.  Whilst test AVE did run at a maximum speed of 300 km/hr on the line and did cover the Antequera to Granada in 41 minutes, for energy efficient reasons passenger operation was decided to be a maximum speed of 235 km/hr and a journey time of 47 minutes.     

In early May 2019 indications of an imminent handover from ADIF to RENFE were apparent and driver training (as opposed to simulator training) had begun. Tickets for Granada using the special coach service were removed from sale from 9th June giving rise to speculation that this would be the AVE starting date. RENFE refused to detail the reasons for removal of tickets other than to say it was an administrative matter.  Finally, on the 3rd June 2019 the launch of the new service was announced for 26th June 2019.   

LAV Granada. Primeras pruebas con trenes de alta velocidad from adif_videos_es on Vimeo.

The day before the line opened to passengers, on the 25th May a special inauguration train left platform 12 of Madrid Atocha at 09.15 hrs with Pedro Sanchez, President of the Government of Spain, José Luis Ábalos the development minister, Luis Salvador, Mayor of Granada (complaining that he had only received an invitation a few days before),  and Isabel Pardo, president of ADIF and Isias Taboas, President of Renfe and a 100 other invitees.  They we joined by 100 press who were questioned by onlookers as to which celebrity was arriving at the station. Two hours later at Antequera Santa Ana the president of the Junta de Andalucía was waiting with a smile and another 100 guests. The inaugural train waited 20 minutes while they unveiled a plaque mounted on a wooden board in the concourse. In Granada the 'first AVE to Granada' rolled into Granada station platform 4 at 12.38 hrs next to another AVE trainset at platform 7 which had slipped in unnoticed as a backup trainset. The entourage was warmly received by a large crowd of local well-wishers corralled on platform 2, with many more across the street outside.  The newly constructed steel and glass concourse was filled with plastic chairs for the faithful to listen to the inauguration speeches. Pedro Sanchez was obviously moved by his 300 km/hr train circulating at only 37 km/hr through Loja that he very publicly asked the Minister for Development to speed up the Loja by-pass. (Estimates are 400m € to carry out this, it not in the state budget for 2019 which had not been passed anyway.)

Protestors from the 'Platform provincial of Granada for the train' who had gathered on the station forecourt were moved over the road by police. They complained about the time and the cost of the 'Pseudo AVE' project, the loss of the Granada - Jáen route and the night sleeper to Madrid and pressured for the resumption of a Guadix to Baza train. The AVE returned to Madrid after little less than two hours in Granada although the President returned to Madrid by an Air Force Falcon jet and helicopter to the Moncloa, in fairness to a political meeting with Pablo Iglesias of Podemos to try and form a Government.  

Finally, after 11 years and 1.675 m € (including 740m € from the EU) of construction the 122km new line was declared open. It took longer to build than the nine years for the original 1866-1874 line. Granada's "temporary" closure had turned out to be 1.542 days and the new route has dubious honour of being the slowest section of AVE track in Spain. At three and a half hours to Madrid an ALSA coach only takes one hour longer, for a quarter of the price but not nearly as comfortable.  

The following day 26th June 2019 at 07.12 hrs the first passenger train left Granada for Madrid, twelve minutes late due to passenger queues at the single security line reaching across the square, it arrived three minutes early in Madrid.   At 07.35 hrs without any ceremony that last Avant train left for Madrid via Linares. In the other direction the first train into at Granada at 10.54 hrs was delayed 8 minutes decoupling from the Malaga trainset in Antequera and arrived 8 minutes late. 

The Granada Ideal newspaper devoted 16 pages to the previous day's inauguration, whereas Dario de Jáen newspaper's front-page headlines read "We have been abandoned.'       

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