THE EUROPEAN Union is showing signs of cold feet over Portugal’s plans for a high speed TGV rail link between Madrid, Porto and Lisbon.
In a report to Brussels on the project, the Co-ordinator of High-Speed Rail Links Projects South West Europe, Etienne Davignon, expresses concerns that the project is behind schedule and not economically viable.
The former European Commission Vice-President has called into question the amount of cash that should be invested from European Union funds for what he terms “purely national stretches of track between Lisbon and Porto.”
However, the government, through the Secretary of State for Transport Ana Paula Vitorino, brushed off the suggestions by saying: “From what was relayed to me today (September 13) from Monsieur Davignon’s office, he still believes the Portuguese high-speed project to be of excellent quality, will push for the project and would not have included it in his report if he hadn’t thought it a good one.”
The same minister added that everything was being done to get the project off the drawing board and into development within the time frame originally promised when the project is to be publicly presented in December.
Ana Paula Vitorino has scheduled a meeting with Monsieur Davignon, which will take place in Brussels in October, to explain in detail the latest developments in the 12 billion euro project.
Monsieur Davignon, who currently holds the EU’s Industrial Project Development portfolio, says in his brief: “The Portuguese part of the project is behind schedule, because of changes in government in Portugal and because of a lack of financial incentives.
“Until such time as all the necessary elements are on the table, particularly the money, all the overtures presently being made, are not going to be sufficient.”
The government is expected to suggest that the passenger project could be mixed with freight to maximise its profitability, but that this would inevitably mean lowering the projected speed of 350 km/h the trains would travel at.
So far, the projected costs of the three stretches of line within Portugal are:
• Madrid to the Portuguese border – 3.773 billion euros.
• Spanish border to Lisbon – 2.921 billion euros.
• Lisbon to Porto (the part called into question) 4.662 billion euros.