I already posted my impressions on Valencia and Alicante back in early 2013, so this blog is just to update a few things I have observed during my recent visit at the end of April 2015.
In Valencia, I checked the latest extension, the newly introduced L9 from Rosas to Riba-roja de Túria. The line surfaces shortly after diverging from the shared airport line (L3/5) and after the first stop La Cova becomes single-track. The two intermediate stations also have passing loops, but apparently only the northern track is used at all times, because the southern (theoretically the inbound) platform doesn't even have any signs or ticket machines, etc. The terminus at Riba-roja is also double track (two stub tracks) but here also only the northern side is used. This sort of temporary station is really the weak point of the entire extension, as it is not at the location of the former Cercanías station (the metro basically replaced an old railway line), but almost a 15-minute walk from the town centre. In fact, they built a paved path along the old rail formation as walking along the main road would require a hill down and up again. I understand that the initial idea was to put the line underground through this town and continue to Vilamarxant, but then the cheaper version was finished. The service runs only every 30 minutes, so more an S-Bahn than a metro, and although the train I took was fairly occupied, the intermediate stations were hardly used. La Presa actually has a large park&ride facility, but only 3 cars were parked there that day! The train was a bit slow on the out-of-town section, but otherwise the ride was quite o.k.
The rest of the afternoon I spent revisiting the long interurban southern L1 to Villanueva de Castellón I had first travelled on in 2000. As I missed one train at Àngel Guimerà I had to spend 40 minutes before the next train would go out there, so I had time to take a few pictures at Sant Isidre where they had built a new railway station for some regional lines that are currently unable to reach Valencia Nord (they will soon return there but running via Fuente San Luís and backing up into Valencia Nord!). Anyway, eventually I got on my L1 train, quite full, so thought they could really run more often at least to Picassent. I was using a stored-value ticket and as Riba-roja was the last point where I had checked in, and that was already a while ago, I was worried whether the ticket inspectors who came on at Torrent would accept my ticket, but they did. I got off at L'Alcúdia to see at least one of these villages the line serves, but that was just a sleepy almost empty place, so I had to wait another 40 minutes to carry on. While other stations have those Check-in/Check-out machines on all platforms, here I actually had to search for one, placed inside the station building only! When I eventually got to Villanueva, I couldn't bother to hang around there and quickly checked out and in again to return on the same train. I could have taken the risk and not check my ticket, but although that is in zone D, fares are pretty low in Valencia anyway. I was positively surprised that the track on that line, apparently renovated not too long ago as some still-standing signs said, was quite good and the train actually ran faster than on the new L9, but unfortunately the seats in these new trains are simply too hard and uncomfortable, especially on such long journeys! While most stations have standard updated signs, two stops seem to have missed this round of modernisation, Benimodo, which shows signs dating from 1988, and Col.legi El Vedat, which has no signs at all, and is only used by young students from a nearby school (unfortunately they just left for home when I was travelling past...).
In Alicante I basically checked out the new line 2 to Sant Vicent del Raspeig, which had been completed years ago but only opened several months after my previous visit. This line is a typical modern tramway, all on reserved right-of-way through a very urban environment, but it is pretty slow and only runs every 15 minutes. So my major complaint about the Alicante system are the long headways, which at 30 minutes are even worse on L3 and L4 (but there restricted by a single-track section). But L2 could really run more often as it does become quite busy. I was surprised to see one tram operating as a 2-car unit, but that doesn't help much, if such a compound only appears every now and then (I think the students' travelling habits are not so predictable!). The shared tunnel section does not seem to be close to capacity yet.
Another negative issue in Alicante is the lack of an easy-to-use day ticket, especially being a tourist destination! So, as I didn't really need a 10-ride ticket, I had to buy a single ticket (1.45€) before/upon each boarding. I wonder whether this is the only city in Spain with ticket machines inside the trams? And it seems they have a problem with fare evasion, because at one point a brigade of at least 10 ticket inspectors invaded the tram, supported by some security people!
Later I had a look whether the old 4L branch from Sangueta to Puerta del Mar was still in place or disconnected or even dismantled, but it is still there, even the tram signals were still working, just the huge train indicator at Puerta del Mar looked rather abandoned.