PORTUGAL: Infraestruturas de Portugal has completed the 25 kV 50 Hz electrification of its Minho line between Viana do Castelo and Valença in the far north of the country.

The Minho line forms part of the international corridor linking Porto with Vigo in Spain. It has been electrified in two phases: the first 44 km between Nine and Viana do Castelo was completed in July 2019 at a cost of €16m; and the 49 km from Viana to the border town of Valença has now been wired within a budget of €18m. Completion of the project was marked by a ceremony on April 26 attended by Prime Minister António Costa and Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Pedro Nuno Santos.

When the work was authorised in 2016 as part of the Ferrovia 2020 programme, it was expected to be complete by January 2020. As well as electrification, improvements have been made to the formation, including the stabilisation of earthworks and installation of better drainage. Stations have been refurbished and passing loops rebuilt to accommodate 750 m long freight trains. Outstanding works including the renewal of signalling, interlockings and telecoms between Nine and Valença are now expected to be finished by the end of 2021.

Despite the infrastructure works, line speeds remain largely unaltered, varying between 80 and 140 km/h. However, journey times between Valença and Porto are expected to be reduced by around 15 min through the introduction of electric traction to replace the Class 592 DMUs which national operator CP has leased from RENFE for several years.

CP plans to increase services along the Minho line, with new connections including a daily inter-city service between Lisboa and Valença and a regional service between Coimbra and Valença. The operator expects to deploy loco-hauled trains, hauled by recently refurbished Class 2600 and Class 2620 electric locomotives supplied by Alsthom and Sorefame in 1974-87. The trains will initially be formed of Sorefame/Alsthom Corail coaches dating from the 1980s, but these are expected to be replaced by former RENFE Arco coaches acquired in July 2020, which are now being refurbished at CP’s Guifões workshop in Matosinhos.

The international service between Porto and Vigo will continue to use diesel railcars pending electrification of the cross-border section to Tui.

Meanwhile, the government continues to develop proposals under its PNI2030 infrastructure plan for a high speed corridor including substantial sections of new line, with the aim of linking Porto and Vigo in 1 h.