Portugal’s Minister of Infrastructure: “It is unforgivable that the Portuguese and Spanish do not resolve the railway connection”

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Pedro Nuo Santos (So Joo da Madeira, 45 years old) has prioritized investment in railways for Portugal’s regional structure since coming to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing in 2019, although decades of railway marginalization do not. . It’s easy to turn the page so quickly. Pointed as one of the possible successors to Antonio Costa, led by Portuguese socialists, he believed that the existing harmony between the Iberian governments would allow Poor rail connectivity between the two countriesWith two high-speed corridors as priority actions, which will bring Lisbon closer to Badajoz in 2023 and Porto closer to Vigo in 2030. Meanwhile, it proposes a direct train between Lisbon and Madrid via Fuentes de Onoro (Salamanca).

ask. How do you rate the current status of rail connections between Portugal and Spain?

answer. are bad. It is a bit incomprehensible that these two neighbors have such a delicate relationship. At the moment, Portugal and Spain are unable to provide good service to train passengers at a time when the whole of Europe is committed to promoting the transfer from automobiles to mass transport. It is unforgivable that the Portuguese and Spanish cannot solve this common problem of cross-border connections.

P. Where are the main political responsibilities on this?

R. I like to talk about my responsibility.

P. Don’t you want to criticize Spain?

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R. I do not want, because my responsibility is on my country. In previous decades, Portugal broke away from railways and turned almost exclusively to highways, while Spain did not stop investing in trains, investing in highways. If we do not bet on the train within Portugal, we are less prepared to work with Spain to promote connections. So I want to point out the responsibilities not towards my neighbor, but towards myself. Fortunately, today we have a government that prioritizes trains and we can look at the future of railways in a different way. We are focusing on what we can build with the Spanish government on various fronts to guarantee these cross-border connections.

P. And what are those fronts? For example, would a daily day connection between Lisbon and Madrid be retrieved?

R. we had a service [el tren nocturno Lusitania] that it was abandoned by two companies, Renfe and Combios de Portugal; More on the initiative of Renfe, who has shown no interest in recovering it. That operation was incomplete. We are interested in restarting it, but we don’t have anyone towing trains from Spain.

P. Renfe has terminated night services.

R. Which are now recovering in Europe. Obviously, we also want the service not to become a budget burden for both the companies as before. But first let’s talk about infrastructure. Work is underway on a southern corridor connecting Lisbon to Badajoz, which will allow an average speed of 250 km/h when completed in December 2023. On the Spanish side, work is underway on the line between Badajoz and Placencia, although electrification will not happen until 2023. Unless Spain acts between Placencia and Madrid, we will not have a relationship with a good pace between Lisbon and Madrid, and that section is far behind. When everything is finished, the journey between Lisbon and Madrid can be reduced to four and a half hours. Because of the close economic and social ties between us, cross-border relations between Portugal and Galicia are our next major priority. At this time, joint work has begun between Infrastructura de Portugal and Adif to study the technical solutions for the project between Vigo and Porto. In 2030, if all goes well, Vigo will be connected with Lisbon at high speed. Being a cross-border connection that is in the Trans-European Corridor, we are going to submit a joint application to opt for financing up to 50%. [fondo Connecting Europe Facility],

P. When is this application submitted?

R. We do not know whether we will have the project ready or it will have to be in the next in order to apply for this community table (2021-2027). Then there is a third link between Aveiro, Salamanca and Madrid, which is very important for us because it will allow us to bring the whole center and the north of Portugal closer to Madrid. The journey from Porto to Madrid will take three and a half hours. This investment is in our plans for 2040. The Spanish side gave up investing in this section for some time, although it eventually committed to investing in the Trans-European Corridor to restart it and reach 200 kilometers per hour over the border. to Madrid. There is a fourth connection that is not high speed and is not part of Spain’s plans. This is the union of the Algarve with the Huelva. We already had it 30 years ago, but Spain took up the tracks almost three decades ago. The autonomous government of Andalusia is very friendly. We have raised this at several Iberian summits and we have not yet managed to include this connection in our railway plan to Spain, but we have hope. This is a very important line connecting the south of Spain and the south of Portugal and connecting us with the Mediterranean Corridor.

P. more services?

R. When we have these infrastructure in place, we can be sure that commercial service will be of interest to various rail operators and relations between the two countries will be more interesting from the point of view of travel time and comfort. Until you get there, something must happen, even if it’s not ideal service. We are not unaware that today the train travel time between Spain and Portugal is not attractive and that’s why people shy away from it. Infrastructure is a problem, but until it is solved, we want a service, whatever it may be. We are available to work with Renfe on a solution that is not a budget burden for operators, although we believe these cross-border connections are also justified by their public service business. Therefore, both companies should be supported by Vilar Formoso and Fuentes de Oñoro between Lisbon and Madrid to guarantee the viability of this relationship. As soon as we have the Lisbon-Madrid high-speed infrastructure via Badajoz, this will become easier, but when we don’t have it, we want a service where it is possible, via Vilar Formoso .

P. Is there any forecast of immediate improvement in the Celtic train?

R. Nothing is planned at this time. On the Portuguese side we electrified the Mino line, but for a separate service between Vigo and Porto we need a new line.

P. what will they put on the table Next Iberian Summit,

R. We want Spain to move quickly with regards to Vilar Formoso and confirm that everything is progressing between Vigo and Porto. With the Algarve is the only connection the Spaniards have yet to commit to making. A corridor was to be built from Sines to Spain, one of the largest ports in Europe. Initially, it was planned only for freight and we have decided to make an intervention so that passengers can be transported, but this does not solve the connection of the population in a direct line with Madrid. We want to connect Portugal with Spain, which is somewhat different from connecting Lisbon with Madrid.

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