AT THE START OF 2004, Portuguese infrastructure authority Refer expects to complete the second phase of its North-South link programme, which will see routes either side of the Tagus finally connected via the 25 de Abril bridge in Lisboa (RG 4.98 p258). Although passengers have been crossing the Tagus by rail since June 1999, it was only earlier this year that the gap on the south bank between Coina and Penalva was closed and the first train operated between Coina and Pinhal Novo on the main line to Faro.

Completion of the North-South link will enable commuter services to run to Setúbal from Entrecampos on the Lisboa belt line in around 55min, and would cut the Lisboa - Faro journey time to 3h 15min. Construction of the Coina - Pinhal Novo link has cost €107·7m and related improvements to the belt line between Entrecampos and Chelas €49m. In both cases, 80% of the cost has been met by the European Union.