Two new AVE, high speed rail, connections with Madrid have been receiving a great deal of hype in recent days, after the Prime Minister and the Community President arrived in Orihuela on the first train to connect the city with the Spanish capital.
The connection is being hailed as a major boost for tourism in the area with the Orihuela mayor, Emilio Bascuñana, saying that it “will mean a better service to people across the entire region and of course it will also bring thousands of additional visitors into the area, promoting tourism at the regional level ”.
Of course that might be the case for Orihuela City with its churches, palaces and museums, but for anyone hoping to play golf or spend a few says relaxing on a beach, they may find that it will take the same amount of time to get from the station to their destination as it did to the province from Madrid.
Unfortunately, until the road and the transport infrastructure are both greatly improved, despite the claims of the politicians, the poor connection of the two new AVE stations with the coast will continue to hinder the arrival of tourists.
Both stations, Miguel Hernández in Orihuela and Elche AV (High Speed) in Matola, are almost 40 kilometres from the closest stretch of the Mediterranean sea, and with neither town being able to offer anything like a half decent bus service, visitors might find they are obliged to meet the additional expense of taking a taxi.
Both Orihuela and Elche will end up competing to be the most attractive drop off point for those who wish to travel to the coast, hoping to attract passengers who, until now, were getting off in Alicante.
Using Torrevieja as the proposed final destination, Elche station starts with an advantage in terms of its connectivity by road, but fails in communication by public transport, a journey that Orihuela wins.
The traveller arriving from Madrid and bound for Torrevieja who stops at the Elche high speed station must take the bus (1.35 euros) into the city centre, a journey of about half an hour.
Once there, you must then take a second bus from the bus station that will takes you to Torrevieja, however, if you arrive on the AVE at 9.16 you will have to wait until 11.30 and the journey will take you a further hour and a half. In total, it will take you 3 hours and 45 minutes to go from Matola to Torrevieja , almost double the time that it took to get from Madrid to Elche. If you arrive on the AVE that arrives at 22.04, there is no public transport to Torrevieja at that time.
If the traveller decides to arrive in Orihuela-Miguel Hernández, can catch the bus to Torrevieja at the station, which will save them precious time. So, if you take the AVE in the morning you will arrive in Orihuela at 9.30 am.
You will have to wait until 10.45 for the bus to Torrevieja (€ 2.65), which will arrive at its destination one hour later, a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes from the time you got off the train. Similar to Elche, there is no connection by public transport if you arrive in Orihuela on the AVE at 22.18.
So, while the connection by coach to the coast is better from Orihuela, it still takes at least the same amount of time to travel the 35 kilometres that separate Orihuela from Torrevieja as the initial 450 kms from Madrid by high speed train.
With a spend exceeding 40 billion euros for the rail link, you might be excused for expecting that our highly paid political decision makers would also factor into the development costs the connection from Elche and Orihuela to the coast. Now that really would provide the tourist bonanza that they claim.
But, of course, the one major issue common to all democratic variants, is that elected officials have strong incentives to be short-sighted in their proposals and actions — to maximise perceived short-term gains at the expense of long-term progress. That is because they focus on re-election and the popularity of their parties and allies in the near future, instead of the common good in the long run.
Perhaps its just as well that their salaries aren’t proportional to their “performance” while in office.