Opening of the 1·5 km airport branch on May 27 saw the completion of the first phase of the Porto metro. Detailed design work has been completed for a 12·5 km extension of Line A, and planning has started for three more routes

THE PLACING of an order earlier this year for 30 additional light rail vehicles marked a significant step in the development of the Porto Metro network. Construction of the first phase was effectively completed with the opening of the airport branch on May 27, and the arrival of the first Flexity Swift cars from Bombardier in 2008 will provide the capacity to operate the first of several extensions envisaged in the second phase.

The network has taken a long time to evolve, as the various municipalities and transport operators have sought to overcome inherited geographical and historical limitations on the city's urban rail infrastructure and bind the expanding urban region together.

Porto stands on the edge of a high gorge through which flows the River Douro. The broad gauge main line crosses the river well to the east of the city centre to reach what is now CP's principal station at Campanhã. A short branch runs to Sao Bento close to the city centre, but this is not accessible from the south without reversal, and is used only by local services.

Porto was also served by two metre-gauge lines which joined at Senhora da Hora in the northwest and ran through a long tunnel to a terminus at Trindade. By the early 1990s the city's standard-gauge tram network had dwindled to a single route along the Douro riverfront from Infante to Passeio Alegre and a short branch from Massarelos to Vinato.

Much of the urban development in recent years has taken place to the north and east of the city, and in the neighbouring municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia on the south bank.

The first metro line was designed to connect the northwestern suburbs with the city centre using the metre-gauge alignment, and to provide a much-needed cross-city connection between Trindade and Campanhã. A separate north-south route was planned to connect the hospital and university district with Vila Nova de Gaia, giving a second rail crossing of the Douro.

Building Phase I

Metro do Porto SA was incorporated in 1993 to develop a modern light rail network for the Metropolitan Area of Porto. Its municipalities are the principal shareholders, with state railway operator CP and Metro de Lisboa holding minority stakes. In November 1997 Metro do Porto awarded a build and operate concession for the first phase to the Normetro consortium. This comprises the Transmetro civil engineering group formed by Somague, Soares da Costa, and Impregilo, plus Bombardier, Balfour Beatty Rail and Transdev as operator. Signing of the various contracts was completed by December 1998.

The initial 67·6 km network was designed with four routes designated Lines A to D. Line A from Matosinhos, B from Póvoa de Varzim and C from Trofa would converge to share the Trinidade - Campanhã cross-city tunnel. Line D is a separate north-south route from Hospital São João to João de Deus in Vila Nova de Gaia. Construction work began at Campanhã in March 1999. Normetro ordered a fleet of 72 Eurotram LRVs from Bombardier, the first of which arrived in May 2001.

CP's metre gauge routes to Trofa and Póvoa were replaced by a temporary bus service from February 2002, to permit their conversion. Four months later, trial services began on the outer section of Line A between Câmara de Matosinhos and Viso, which had been built on a new ground-level alignment and street reservations. This free service gave the residents of Porto their first taste of their new metro.

Meanwhile, civil engineering continued apace to excavate a total of 6 km of tunnels and build two crossings of the Douro. Among the obstacles facing the engineers was the decision to use the top deck of the Luiz I bridge to carry trams running on Line D. The iron-span bridge is a World Heritage Site that dates back to 1886, and special care was required to ensure the metro could be built without compromising the structure. At the same time, Metro do Porto also committed to building the new Infante bridge to carry road traffic displaced from older structure.

Opening ceremonies for the Matosinhos - Trindade section of Line A took place at Casa da Música on December 7 2002, attended by the then Prime Minister José Manuel Barroso. Metro do Porto granted free travel for the rest of 2002, with revenue service starting on January 1 2003.

Extensions approved

The Portuguese government reaffirmed its commitment to continued expansion of the network by approving two extensions in July 2003. The first would take Line A from Campanhã to Gondomar, and the other would provide a connection to Sá Carneiro airport.

The Gondomar line would add 12·5 km and 22 stations in total. The 1·5 km airport link would leave Line B at Os Verdes, serving three stations. Construction of the airport line began in March 2005 after funding worth k74m was secured from the EU's Cohesion Fund.

But the need to connect the existing Line A at Trindade to the newly-built Estadio de Dragão ahead of the 2004 European football championship was yet more pressing. Opened in July 2003, the stadium is located along the route of the proposed Gondomar extension, so construction of the first 1·4 km of this line was brought forward to open at the same time as the Trinidade - Campanhã tunnel. Equally significantly, the inauguration of this section on June 5 2004 saw the metro reach its interchange with main line rail services at Campanhã station.

Further revisions to the original plans were also agreed. The former rail routes to Trofa and Póvoa de Varzim were to be retained as single track links under the initial proposals, but Metro do Porto and Normetro subsequently agreed that both routes should be doubled throughout.

Development of the metro network also drove forward plans to create an integrated contactless ticketing system covering all public transport in the Greater Porto region.

Valid on the metro, buses and local rail services, Andante is administered by TIP, a joint venture company established in 2002 by Metro do Porto, tram and bus operator Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos do Porto SA and suburban rail authority USGP. The integrated ticketing is based around a zonal fare structure, and provides an income distribution model to allocate revenue to all the local operators.

Completion of Line A through to Estadio de Dragão brought a marked upturn in ridership during the second year of operation, with the single route carrying 9·8 million passengers in 2004 - a 65% increase on the previous year. Metro do Porto expects to achieve 82·5 million trips a year now that the full 70·3 km five-line network serving 70 stops is in operation.

The phased opening of Lines B and C began in 2005, with Line B services reaching Pedras Rubras from March 13, and Line C opened to Fórum Maia at the end of July. Services on both routes operate through to Estadio de Dragão. The first section of Line D between Câmara Gaia and Pólo Universitário was opened to revenue service in September 2005.

The culmination of Phase I came this year with Line B reaching its terminus at Póvoa. Line D was extended north to Hospital São João and south to João de Deus at the same time. A further section of Line C from Fórum Maia to Ismai was also opened, adding another four stations, but completion of the rest of the route to Trofa has been deferred to a later date. The airport link was completed in May 2006, with the introduction of a new Line E service running through to Estadio de Dragão every 20 min.

Phase II studies

Attention is now shifting to the Phase II expansion projects, with the government giving the go-ahead to a number of feasibility studies in the summer of 2003. In October 2005 Prime Minister José Sócrates once again publicly underlined the government's commitment to the scheme.

Approval for the start of construction on the Gondomar extension is expected imminently, following some minor alterations to the design requested by the government. Completion of Line C to Trofa is also still awaiting government approval. Metro do Porto expects to introduce the Flexity tram-train vehicles on the longer routes - Line B to Póvoa de Varzim and Line C to Ismai, and release some of the Eurotrams for use on the Line A extension.

Among the options being assessed by Metro do Porto and STCP is conversion of the disused Boavista - Matosinhos tram route to light rail standards. This would add a further 7 km and 12 stations provisionally designated Line F, and would require the construction of a new interchange between Boavista and Casa da Música on the cross-city corridor.

Tentative proposals for a Line G from Casa da Música to Quinta do Cedro in Vila Nova da Gaia envisage a 7 km cross-river route with 10 stations. The first 1·2 km of this would be built as an extension of Line D to Laborim, where bus/rail interchange and park and ride facilities are planned.

Other routes being explored include a western extension of Line A (or Line F) beyond Matosinhos to Leça da Palmeira (3·4 km with five stations), and a 7·9 km northern extension of Line D from Hospital São João to meet Line C at Parque Maia, which would add another 12 stops.

Le métro de Porto entre dans la seconde phase

Le 27 mai, l'ouverture de l'antenne de l'aéroport, longue de 1·5 km, a vu l'achèvement de la première phase du métro de Porto, portant le réseau de métro léger de la deuxième ville du Portugal à plus de 70 km de lignes. Les travaux de construction vont prochainement commencer sur une extension de 12·5 km de la ligne A, tandis que la planification a commencé pour trois lignes de plus 30 rames supplémentaires de métro légér ont été commandées pour une livraison en 2008

Porto Metro geht in zweite Phase

Die Eröffnung der 1·5 km langen Flughafenlinie am 27 Mai war der Abschluss der ersten Phase der Porto Metro, welche das Stadtbahnnetz der zweitgrössten Stadt in Portugal auf über 70 km Streckenlänge brachte. Die Bauarbeiten werden für eine 12·5 km lange Erweiterung der Linie A bald anfangen, und die Planung für 3 weitere Linien ist am Anlaufen 30 weitere Fahrzeuge sind für Lieferung in 2008 bestellt

Empieza la segunda fase del metro de Porto

Con la abertura del ramal de 1·5 km al aeropuerto el pasado 27 de Mayo se completó la primera etapa del metro de Porto y con ella la red de la segunda ciudad de Portugal superó los 70 km de ruta. En breve se iniciarán tareas de construcción en la extensión de 12·5 km de la Línea A, y al mismo tiempo tres líneas más están en proyecto. Se han pedido 30 vehículos de metro ligero adicionales que serán entregados en 2008

CAPTION: The first section of Line B to reopen saw light rail vehicles running as far as a temporary terminus at Pedras Rubras, a short way beyond the site for the dive-under junction for the airport branch

CAPTION: A Line A service from Matosinhos arrives in the three-platform underground station at Estadio de Dragão, where long escalators lead up to the stadium entrance

CAPTION: The extensions to Trofa and Gondomar have been approved and are awaiting clearance from the government for work to begin

CAPTION: Running in tunnel under the city centre, Line D serves deep-level platforms at Trinidade below the interchange with Lines A, B C and E on the site of the former railway terminus

CAPTION: The alignment of the former CP metre-gauge route to Póvoa de Varzim has been radically remodelled to create the standard-gauge Line B

Topics