Europe's greatest advances in high-speed rail in recent years have come from Spain – with startling improvements in journey times to, and around, Andalucía.
The original high-speed link celebrates its 20th anniversary next year. The first AVE service connects Madrid with Córdoba in under two hours, and continues onwards to Sevilla in a further 40 minutes. Four years ago, Málaga gained a high-speed through spectacular scenery, to achieve the same journey time as Sevilla: around two and a half hours from the Spanish capital.
The same infrastructure delivers fast journeys around Andalucía. Given the excellent flight options to Málaga – the best-connected Spanish city to Britain – it is now a realistic rail gateway to the region. The airport itself has a rail station, albeit on a local line between Fuengirola and Málaga.
Once you reach Málaga's main terminus, María Zambrano, the journey options begin with Córdoba. This is one of the rare great Spanish cities that has no direct flights from the UK. And the best fast-track approach is via Málaga, from where the train takes only 48 minutes.
The fastest trip from Málaga to Sevilla is via Córdoba and takes under two hours, although slower trains are available. The "classic" line across the hills via Bobadilla (the Andalucían junction for a million Inter-Railers) lasts half-an-hour longer and paints a different picture of the sultry south.
Next year, it's hoped that one more piece of the jigsaw will fall into place: a high-speed link between Sevilla and Cádiz – which will ultimately see this great port city and gateway to the Canaries connected with Madrid in around three hours. In Andalucía, this is the age of the train.