The country’s never-ending airport story returned to square one this month when Portugal’s National Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC) refused to evaluate the request submitted by ANA – the French construction group that runs Portugal’s airports – to build a second hub for Lisbon’s airport at Montijo – at present a military airbase – on the southern bank of the Tagus river.

The country’s booming tourism industry – briskly brought to a halt last year by the coronavirus pandemic – complains already for years about the lack of capacity at Lisbon’s overcrowded inner-city airport.

Plans for a second airport near the capital have been under consideration for over a decade. The government of António Guterres choose Ota. Then came Alcochete, than Alverca. Later Portela+1, which after a vague announcement by the government of Passos Coelho and the determination of António Costa finally resulted in Montijo.

Very much against legal protests from two local communist councils – Moita and Seixal – and environmental concerns regarding precious birdlife in the Tagus estuary.

In a statement, ANAC declared, that it had no choice but to reject the request and explained that according to Portuguese law, it could only evaluate the project if all local governments provide positive feedback.

Despite this setback for one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects, the PS socialist government said it wouldn’t give up and is studying solutions for the impasse, including building the controversial airport elsewhere and re-evaluating the law allowing municipalities to veto plans of national importance.

As a matter of fact, the government is proposing three possibilities.
The first is to push forward with the current project and get support from the biggest opposition party PSD (Social Democrats) in Parliament to change the law so that the local opposition becomes meaningless.

The second is to make Montijo the principal airport and Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado a complementary terminal. The third would be the construction of a new international airport at the Campo do Tiro in Alcochete – about 40 km northeast of Lisbon – an option already favored by some of the many critics of the Montijo location.

With the project once again returning to square one, the successive heads of state resemble king Sisyphus in ancient Greece, who was punished by being forced to roll an immense stone up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável             (pic Público/Expresso)


‘Rail is the only means of transport that reduces CO2 emissions while increasing transport volumes’

The narrative of Portugal’s high-speed rail connections to Madrid, Porto and the Spanish city of Vigo is back on track in this European Year of Rail with Portugal chairing the Presidency of the EU.

It started some 20 years ago when the former Minister of Infrastructure João Cravino promised to link Lisbon to Porto by train in 1 hour and 15 minutes. The high-speed rail project, however, went up in smoke through lack of funds.

Lisbon is nowadays one of the few capitals in Europe – besides Athens and Talin – without international rail connections. In March last year, both theSud-Expresso (to Hendaye, on the French-Spanish border) and theLusitânia Expresso (to Madrid) were suspended due to lack of profitability and the coronavirus pandemic.

These days a trip by train from Lisbon to Madrid requires 4 trains and 3 transfers. The journey of 600 km takes a little more than 10 hours and costs about 55 euros.

Portugal’s national railway and metro network has 528 stations. The 10 busiest – 8 in Lisbon and 2 in Porto – handle 38% of the 24 million passengers every month. The most overloaded station Cais do Sodré in Lisbon belongs to a metro network that doesn’t even has a connection to the national railway network.

Cais do Sodré is also the end of the suburban railway to Cascais and has a flow of 1.5 million passengers per month, just as much as the two busiest stations in Porto.

This decade the government will – with the help of EU grants – invest over 10 billion euros in 16 rail projects. Half of this amount is earmarked for the high-speed connections Lisbon – Porto (travel time 75 min) and Porto – Vigo (time 60 min). The high-speed rail Lisbon – Madrid (time approx. 150 min) is under construction and due to be finalized December 2023.

The other half of the 10 billion project serves the creation of new metro and train lines, the modernisation of existing lines and the purchase of rolling stock.

During the past decade, the use of cars in the Lisbon metropolitan area has increased significantly, leading to more congestion, pollution and noise. One of the key modernisation projects therefore is to improve the nation’s second-busiest railway Lisbon – Cascais in order to encourage sustainable and environmentally friendly (inter)urban mobility.

The existing 1500 volts DC electrification system on this 25 km course is completely different from the rest of the country’s railway network and the trains used are only suitable for this trajectory. Putting in place new 25 thousand volts AC overhead lines will not only enable integration in the national network but also result in 50% energy savings.

Before the purchase of new carriages, the 17 stations along the line will be upgraded and made more user-friendly. Moreover, its platforms have to be standardized to guarantee that new trains from the national network can smoothly pass and don’t get stuck as happened on a test-drive on Sunday, the 13th of December in São João do Estoril.

Stay safe             Fique saudável                       (pic Público/Sapo)