Câmara to sue state

LisboN Câmara President, Carmona Rodrigues, has announced that he will seek compensation from the state for what he describes as its “unjustified actions” in stopping works on the Marquês tunnel for the last seven months. His announcement came after the Lisbon Supreme Court reversed an earlier embargo on construction, so paving the way for the tunnel’s completion.

“Works could have restarted today, if the notification from the Supreme Administrative Court (that lifted the embargo) had arrived at the câmara,” said Rodrigues last week. The contractor, Construtora do Tâmega, said that it envisaged recommencing work within “two to four weeks”, but Rodrigues ordered machines and tools to be reinstalled at the tunnel site on the day of the court decision.

The Central Administrative Court had earlier imposed a ban on construction pending the results of an Environmental Impact Study (AIA). The same court met again in September and backed the earlier ruling. The câmara then launched an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court, which overturned the original decisions. The Supreme Court justified its decision to reverse previous judgements on the basis that the Marquês tunnel was an ordinary road tunnel and not comparable to underground metro tunnels.

Carmona Rodrigues went to the tunnel site to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision. Accompanied by a retinue of councillors, including the vice-president of the câmara, Pedro Pinto, Rodrigues said he was “very happy, as are thousands of Lisboetans and Portuguese, for this day of liberation”.

Rodrigues estimated the direct cost of stopping the works at 2.5 million euros. But he said that there had also been indirect repercussions – social, environmental and economic – as well as what he described as “the poor quality of life for people in the vicinity”. He confirmed that the Environmental Impact Study, currently in progress, would continue, but he considered the study’s principal cause of concern, the “inclination” of the tunnel, to have been “overtaken” by the Supreme Court’s decision.

In its formal declaration, the Supreme Court said there was no comparison between metropolitan tunnels and this kind of tunnel. “The tunnel in question is a traffic tunnel, distinct from the construction of a metro tunnel underground, or on an overhead line,” it stressed. “Such a tunnel is not destined primarily for the transport of passengers.”

But lawyer and tunnel opponent José Sá Fernandes, arguing for the continuation of the embargo, disagreed and cited the reasons why he considered the AIA obligatory – primarily the environmental damage he believes the construction will cause and possible dangers to public safety.

Rodrigues had consistently denied that the tunnel had compromised safety requirements in any way. “We have not been carrying out dangerous works. The tunnel was well constructed from the outset,” he stressed.

Rodrigues has estimated that work on the tunnel will be completed “within one year”, but denied there was any link between this time span and forthcoming local elections. “We are not preoccupied with timings of this kind,” he insisted.