The Government of Portugal anticipates the high-speed rail connection between Lisbon and Madrid by 2034 |  Economy

The Portuguese Prime Minister, Luís Montenegro, resorted last night to the format of big occasions to make two announcements that had been dragging around official offices for years, related to two major investments to improve transportation in Portugal. In an institutional speech he reported that the new Lisbon airport, a decision pending since 1969, will be located on public lands of the Alcochete shooting range, as had been defended by the technical commission that studied all the possible locations for a year. The new terminal will be named after Luís de Camões, a tribute to the author of The Lusíadas, died 500 years ago. The Government intends for its first runway to be built in 2030 and the second in 2031. The investment will exceed the 6,105 million euros, which the technical commission anticipated. When both are in operation, Humberto Delgado will be closed, one of the worst airports in Europe due to saturation, lateness and impact. Lisbon is the second European capital with the most inhabitants exposed to aeronautical noise.

The second strategic announcement fully affects Spain, as it is committed to accelerating the high-speed rail connection between Lisbon and Madrid to make it possible within a decade. To this end, the construction of a third bridge over the Tagus will be promoted, vital to allow the trip between both capitals to be completed in three hours and also necessary to facilitate accessibility to the new airport, which will be located on the southern bank of the river. The Tagus estuary currently has two bridges, the 25 de Abril (built in 1966) and the Vasco de Gama, inaugurated for Expo 98, operated by the French company Vincci, the same one that also manages the airports throughout the country. country.

The Council of Ministers agreed to commission the public company Infraestructuras de Portugal to conclude the studies for the construction of the bridge and the high-speed line from Lisbon to Madrid. Both infrastructures appeared in the National Railway Plan, approved by the previous Government of António Costa. The decision taken this Tuesday aims to accelerate the infrastructure so that it can be operational in 2034, although this requires Spain to complete the entire high-speed network between Badajoz and Madrid. The Portuguese executive wants to agree with the Spanish executive on the project schedules, in addition to agreeing on it with the European Commission, with a view to obtaining community financing. The Portuguese high-speed section would require an investment of about 2.2 billion euros, according to the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing, Miguel Pinto Luz, who this Tuesday spoke with the head of Transport and Sustainable Mobility, Óscar Puente, about the infrastructure.

This work does not affect the work already underway on the high-speed Atlantic corridor, which will connect Vigo with Porto in 50 minutes and with Lisbon in two hours and five minutes, although for this Spain will have to build the section from the Galician city to the border of the Miño. The first section between Soure and Porto is currently underway. Portugal considers the Atlantic axis between its two main cities a priority to internally structure its territory. This contest was one of the last decisions made by the previous socialist Government, which approved a National Railway Plan in 2022, which established a commitment to relaunch the train after years of being cornered. This document also established communications with Spain through three high-speed corridors (Lisbon-Oporto-Vigo-A Coruña, Lisbon-Badajoz-Madrid and Oporto-Salamanca-Madrid) and a fourth conventional network to link the Algarve and Andalusia.

The decision of the new Government of Montenegro will allow the acceleration of the high-speed project between the Iberian capitals, which currently suffer from the worst railway connection since 1881, when the railway route between the two was inaugurated. The night train between Lisbon and Madrid, which was jointly operated by the railway companies of Spain and Portugal, was suspended due to the pandemic. When activity returned to normal, Renfe decided to eliminate all night trains due to low profitability. A measure that contrasts with the commitment that is being made in the rest of Europe to modernize nighttime rail connections as a measure that favors sustainable mobility and the decarbonization of transport. If someone wants to go from Lisbon to Madrid by train today, they need to invest more than nine hours and make two transfers.

In the immediate horizon, no direct train is planned to connect Lisbon and Madrid, although the existence of some high-speed sections completed or about to be completed in both countries would allow, starting in 2025, a seven-hour trip and a six-hour trip. hours in 2026. On the Spanish side, the 150 kilometers between Badajoz and Plasencia are in service, while on the Portuguese side the section between Évora and Elvas will be operational next year, which will make it possible to go from the border to Lisbon in two hours. Spain also has the 70-kilometer stretch between Plasencia and Talayuela underway.

Alcochete, the election of the technical commission

The absence of a competitive rail alternative has boosted air traffic between the Iberian capitals, which have about 40 daily flights. The high speed will contribute to reducing aeronautical traffic in the future both towards Madrid and Porto, which receives around twenty daily flights from Lisbon.

The choice of Alcochete as the site of the future airport received widespread applause from the opposition. “We never had doubts that this was the best decision,” endorsed the leader of the Socialist Party, Pedro Nuno Santos. Only André Ventura, president of the populist Chega party, minimized the decision as “a simple workbook” and alluded to “elements of suspicion” among the members of the independent technical commission, created by consensus between the Government of António Costa and the then opposition leader, Luís Montenegro.

The commission studied nine options for a year until settling on Alcochete. This choice was questioned by Montenegro at first, which seemed to align itself with the position of the airport concessionaire, which intended to maintain the current one and add a second terminal in Montijo. Hence his final decision was surprising. “The Government assumes the single airport as the most appropriate option for the interests of the country,” defended the prime minister. Among its advantages, he cited that the land is public, has room for growth up to four runways, consolidates the international hub and contributes to developing the area on the southern bank of the Tagus.

The concessionaire Vinci, which paid the Portuguese State 1.2 billion euros for the operation of the airports for 50 years in 2012, has the contractual right to decide on the location of the new airport. And their bet had always been to maintain the old Humberto Delgado and build a second terminal in Montijo. After praising Alcochete’s election, the leader of the Left Bloc, Mariana Mortagua, asked about “the compensation given to Vinci.”

The current airport is terrible for travelers and very profitable for Vinci. According to a report revealed by Public, Its income reached 1,437 million euros between 2013 and 2022 thanks to the growth in air traffic and the increase in airport taxes that the Portuguese State left in the hands of the concessionaire. In just a decade it has recovered its investment of 1.2 billion euros to obtain the concession of the airports, approved during the previous conservative Government of Pedro Passos Coelho in the stage of austerity imposed by the international organizations of the troika.

By Editor

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