Coasting in Portugal
DELEGATES to a TradePartners UK seminar on May 15 were warned of a likely slowdown in major railway projects in Portugal. The government that took office in March has indicated that it is reassessing major schemes, and it now seems that the upgrading of track and signalling on the trunk line between Lisboa and Porto for operation of 220 km/h tilting trains will not be completed until the end of 2003.
Plans for a high speed line to Madrid look likely to remain on the drawing board for some time yet. No decision has been reached on whether the line will serve the proposed new Lisboa airport, as the government has even cast doubt on this scheme.
Light rail looks more promising. Two Portuguese-led consortia have been shortlisted for the first phase of the South Tagus project that will eventually comprise four routes totalling 27·5 km. Work is due to start later this year for completion in 2005. In Coimbra, plans for a 40 km network are taking shape, with a French-Portuguese group undertaking a feasibility study. The intention is to call bids for a 30-year build and operate concession, and offers are expected to close in September with a view to awarding the contract in 2004 for opening in 2007.