Portuguese high speed again bypasses Madrid

Francisco ChaconCONTINUECORRESPONDENT IN LISBON Updated: 07/03/2022 11:37 a.m.
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So close and yet so far. Madrid and Lisbon seem condemned to perpetuate their lack of rail connection. The Portuguese Government continues to focus exclusively on its high-speed development plans towards Galicia, leaving Madrid out of the picture. Remembering the train trip from Madrid to Lisbon or from Lisbon to Madrid is an exercise in nostalgia that is conspicuous by its absence today. At the time there was a daytime Talgo and then the Lusitania Express took over, which took 10 and a half hours but at least did not leave the dozens of users who got off in any town on the road without transportation. Now there is only one rail link from Portugal to Spain or vice versa: it is Porto-Vigo. Nothing high-speed, but the journey takes two hours and 20 minutes, according to CP, the Portuguese equivalent of Renfe.

The first high-speed section in Extremadura, which began to circulate a few days ago and will not extend to Portugal, has once again put this isolation on the table.
The itinerary from Lisbon to Madrid is usually seen as a Spanish 'imposition'
and the Portuguese authorities insist on presenting themselves to public opinion as those who take the initiative in this matter. Nothing is further from reality. The Portuguese Government, usually bombastic in plans that are later usually fulfilled late (if they ever abandon the project drawer), predicts that the section from the capital to the Galician knot would require an investment of 5,400 million. A calculation that does not seem very realistic and, for sure, would skyrocket.

The Infrastructure Minister, Pedro Nuno Santos, has never mentioned that Spain is much more advanced in high-speed matters. And, in fact, the city of Bragança has not hesitated to join the advantages of the Spanish AVE as it is 55 kilometers from Puebla de Sanabria, thus taking advantage of the Madrid-Zamora connection. This is always a controversial issue in the land of fado, which spent thousands of euros at the time José Sócrates ruled to commission reports that were never translated into anything concrete.

Antonio Costa himself fans the flame of controversy as soon as he has the opportunity, such as when he made those statements that once again brought the thorny issue to the fore. questioned about
the suitability of recovering the Madrid-Lisbon AVE project,
either by Extremadura or by Salamanca, he answered in a disconcerting way: «It is a quite toxic issue in Portugal».

The reactions were immediate and the Portuguese wondered on social networks where such "toxicity" was found, while he tried to appease the spirits by pointing out: "Over time, it will be a discussion that will return." When? It is not known, although it is true that from time to time he returns to the fore. And now is another one of those moments because it is unusual for Lisbon and Madrid to turn their backs on each other in the 21st century with the sad honor of representing the only two capitals of the EU without a rail connection despite their proximity. "I am sure that the issue will be addressed again, but not in the form of a debate on the union between Lisbon and Madrid, but on the inclusion of Portugal in the whole of the high-speed network of the Iberian Peninsula", added the Prime Minister before continuing: «The issue is not mature enough, nor are there economic conditions for the issue to arise. Maybe seven years from now." [ya han transcurrido cuatro].

Time passes and high speed is still science fiction in Portugal, whose institutional laziness has led it to be at the bottom of Europe in this regard. Portugal, which has not built a single kilometer of this type of transport, demands a speed that they do not apply because, argues Nuno Santos, "we do not want to reach the geographical limit first with wagons that can travel at 300 km/hour and have to stop there."

An opportunity denied

"High speed should reach the border between the two countries more or less at the same time," says the controversial Portuguese Minister of Infrastructure, Pedro Nuno Santos. Ask the inhabitants of Braga, the third largest city in Portugal, which is very attentive to the start-up of the Madrid-Galicia line. Viana do Castelo also enjoys a location that can be described as strategic, as it stands 100 kilometers from Vigo and 75 from Porto.

Similarly, the industrial estates of Vila Nova de Cerqueira turn their eyes to the Galician connection because it may represent a pole of development that the Coast Executive does not seem to prioritize, at least because of its excessive delay. The fact is that high speed implies opportunities that Portugal currently denies to its own business fabric, an attitude that citizens are barely able to understand in a context like today's.

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