€23 million tender launched for Algarve railway electrification between Faro and VRSA

The long-promised electrification of the Algarve’s railway – which is already way behind schedule – has finally taken a step forward.

Portugal’s infrastructure authority Infraestruturas de Portugal (IP) announced on Friday the launch of a tender for the electrification of the railway’s 56km Faro-Vila Real de Santo António stretch.

A separate tender for the electrification of the Tunes-Lagos section is due to be launched soon, IP added.

All in all, the electrification project is expected to cost €65 million, 85% of which will be covered by EU funding.

However, the truth is that the works should have already been nearing their completion.

Initial projections pointed towards the electrification being completed by the end of 2020, yet they haven’t even started.

In November 2019, IP justified the delays by saying the planned electrification of the region’s railway was stalled by the need to carry out environmental impact assessments – which initially were not expected to be required.

Now, IP says that the electrification of the Faro-VRSA stretch is expected to last 23 months and be completed by the end of 2023 – three years after the initial completion date.

As the tender for the Tunes-Lagos stretch hasn’t even been launched yet, a completion date is difficult to pin down.

Regular train passengers have often complained about the “embarrassing state” of the Algarve’s railway.

“Trains that never arrive, one-hour delays, replacement buses and closed down stations and stops” are just some of the issues that have been signalled by the Algarve railway users’ commission (CULA).

Hopes are that the electrification of the railway could finally bring it into the 21st century and make travelling by train in the Algarve the enjoyable experience many believe it has the potential to be.

Apart from electrifying the entirety of the railway, the project also includes several improvements to railway stations and supporting infrastructure.

Lagos Council fears electrified railway could become eyesore in Meia Praia
In July, Lagos Council expressed concerns about the planned electrification of the railway between Tunes and Lagos which it fears could become an eyesore, particularly in Meia Praia – an area renowned for its sprawling beach and dunes.

The council believes the works could have “permanent and very significant negative consequences” on Meia Praia’s otherwise mostly natural scenery.

It also says the pros do not outweigh the cons, stressing how the electrification of the railway would bring only minor improvements to people’s train-riding experience.

The nitty-gritty of the council’s complaints includes the construction of seven-metre-high overhead lines to power the trains and the possibility of even higher overpasses (click here).

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