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Sunday, 20 November 2011

Los Boliches Station for Wheelchairs

Christine who teaches flamenco for Scope, wrote in on the Gomarbella Facebook Page to say she was thinking of bringing a group of disabled dance students to Fuengirola in 2012. Scope is a charity which (in Scope's words) has a vision of a world where disabled people have the same opportunities to fulfil their life ambitions as non-disabled people.

Christine asked me specifically about the Los Boliches train stop, wanting to know if the station was accessible to people in wheelchairs or with limited mobility. Her Scope students would stay near Los Boliches which is also the closest train stop to the Fuengirola fair ground on the train line from Malaga to Fuengirola.

Having said a couple of years ago that the elevated train stop was wheelchair friendly I wanted to take another look at it, deciding to park the car in the Fuengirola feria grounds, walk to Fuengirola train station, take the C1 train to Los Boliches train stop and then walk back to the fairgrounds, looking at the route all the way from the point of view of a wheelchair user.

From the Fuengirola feria grounds (recinto ferial de Fuengirola) I turned right out into Avda. Jesús Santos Rein which took me directly to the main Fuengirola train station. I stayed on the right hand pavement all the way. All the kerbs and crossings have ramps and there are no obstacles at all for wheelchairs. It took me 15 minutes at a reasonable walking speed. There's a lift from the pavement to the underground ticket office and another lift to the platform. I asked the Renfe ticket agent if he thought the ramp at Los Boliches was really wheelchair friendly and he told me cheerily, "You need strong shoulders!"

The Fuengirola to Malaga train service every 20 minutes is fantastic, you don't really even need to check the train timetable, if you've just missed a train, don't fuss, by the time you've got your ticket and taken the escalator down to the platform, the next train's waiting for you. The trains leave Fuengirola train station on the hour, at 20 and 40 minutes past and then on the hour again. The ride to Los Boliches is incredibly smooth and took only 2 minutes.

As the train pulled out I saw that it had one special platform level access and exit door situated in the middle. Access to the rest of the train needs a step up but this central access door would offer a very smooth entry or exit for a wheelchair user.

A pleasant yellow safety jacketed woman was cleaning the station and I asked her about the ramp. She said I had just missed a wheelchair user descending from the earlier train. "It's steep" she said "but you can do it." I would say that descending is no problem, some braking help needed but ascending would need team work as in a helper. The ramps themselves have black non slip strips, handy for the rainy day that it was. At the bottom of the ramp on the sea side of the station, I found the only obstacle, not impassable, roots had lifted the paving slabs which would give a wheelchair or wheeled suitcase a bit of a bump.

From Los Boliches train station back to the Fuengirola feria grounds to pick up the car it took me 10 minutes at a reasonable walking speed. There are lots of shops and cafeterias along the route and no obstacles at all. The enormous feria ground is completely flat and easily negotiable.

I hope we'll be seeing your dancers watching flamenco at the Fuengirola feria next year Christine. Thanks very much for writing in and keep up the good work.

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