Spain boasts Europe’s most extensive network of dedicated high-speed passenger railways, and that network is further enhanced this weekend with the opening of a further short stretch of high-speed line south of Madrid. The new link will carry the first direct AVE trains from Spain’s eastern Levante region to Andalucía, so removing the need to change trains in Madrid.
Effective Monday June 18, passengers will be able to leave Valencia Joaquín Sorolla at 08.15 on a direct AVE to Córdoba (arr 11.19) and Sevilla (arr 12.05). This service will run daily except Sundays.
The northbound train from Andalucía makes its debut run on Sunday June 17, departing Sevilla at 17.22, stopping in Córdoba at 18.04 and reaching Valencia at 21.12. The service will run daily except Saturdays.
Yes, it’s certainly progress. The new train slashes journey times between the two regions. We travelled from Valencia to Sevilla in March this year, using the classic García Lorca train, which follows the traditional route through Despeñaperros Pass. It is a wonderful journey, but it’s slow, taking 7hrs 22mins (compared with 3hrs 50mins for the new AVE train).
Travellers exploring Spain by rail purely for pleasure would still do well to opt for the García Lorca, which departs daily around midday from Valencia’s wonderful Estació del Nord — a classic old-style terminus with a feast of delicate tilework, though none of the impersonal efficiency of nearby Joaquín Sorolla, a new, purpose-built station to accommodate high-speed AVE and Alvia trains serving Valencia.
The Garcia Lorca is a train with history, and a route full of poetry. Plenty of windmills as you cruise through Don Quixote country in La Mancha and a fabulous route south into Andalucía. Here’s what we say about the Despeñaperros Pass section of the journey in the current edition of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers:
“Cast back to before the construction of the railway and Despeñaperros was the haunt of banditti who would waylay innocent travellers as they ventured south to Andalucia. It is a little tamer nowadays, but still the most exciting rail route south to Andalucia. South of Despeñaperros , you emerge into a land of dense olive groves and huge oleanders on the platforms of railway stations. Suddenly there are lush colours and Moorish architecture, and scenes outside the carriage window that seem taken directly from paintings by Murillo and Velázquez.”
This looks like one of those cases where the punters can take their choice. Speed from Valencia to Sevilla on the new AVE and the regular one-way far is more than €100. Opt for the slower García Lorca train, and the standard fare drops to less than €60. The fully-flexible preferente class (to all intents and purposes first-class) fare on the García Lorca is €77 (less than half the equivalent fare on the new fast AVE train). Given that the García Lorca really is one of Europe’s great rail journeys, why not upgrade to preferente, sit back and enjoy the view?