Light metro project for Algarve turns out to be busway

Light metro option initially announced by António Costa is too expensive, says regional development commission boss

The 38km light metro system to link Olhão, Faro and Loulé announced last week by Prime Minister António Costa will in fact be a busway served by an electric bus (called a ‘Metrobus’), the regional development commission CCDR Algarve has confirmed.

The project was initially presented as a 38km rapid transit system to link the Algarve towns of Olhão, Faro and Loulé by light metro, with António Costa revealing that the project could cost up to €300 million.

“This project is a truly structural project to link three municipalities that, while being neighbours, are in reality at a huge distance if they are not properly connected,” said Prime Minister António Costa in Olhão.

However, it was clarified a few days later that the project will, in fact, be a 38km bus rapid transit (BRT) system, served by an electric bus which will travel in its own bus lane, as the light metro system is simply ‘too expensive’ an option.

The new bus system will feature 24 stops and aims to serve a population of around 185,000 people in the three municipalities – in other words, around 40% of the Algarve’s population.

The details of the project were clarified by José Apolinário, president of the regional development commission CCDR Algarve, who revealed that the works will be carried out in phases.

The ‘metrobus’ preliminary study was presented by CCDR Algarve boss José Apolinário and Susana Castelo, CEO of TIS, a company specialising in transport and mobility
The ‘metrobus’ preliminary study was presented by CCDR Algarve boss José Apolinário and Susana Castelo, CEO of TIS, a company specialising in transport and mobility

“Our goal is to make these three cities a 15-minute city and ensure that it is possible to travel between them in 15 minutes,” said Apolinário on Monday during a meeting with reporters.

The future line will feature stops at three railway stations – Parque das Cidades near the Algarve Stadium, Bom João in Faro, and Olhão – and at “fundamental” facilities and services in the region, such as Faro International Airport (which welcomes an average of nine million passengers per year and is home to 5,000 workers) and the Gambelas hub of the University of the Algarve (5,300 students).

According to the project’s preliminary study, around 40,000 journeys per day could be made – with possible extensions of the line to Albufeira and Fuzeta still being considered.

But is a light metro still a possibility in the future?

José Apolinário said the BRT system could be the prelude to what may come next.

“By guaranteeing this lane, we will be creating the conditions for a rail transport later on,” he said, admitting however that the costs of such a project are too high at the moment.

“We cannot move forward with a project that would cost €300 million (…) when we have secured €70 million (of community funding). So, we have to do this step by step,” the CCDR boss explained.

Many of the key aspects of the project are still being studied and are only due to be announced in the first three months of 2024, such as the best route for the system and its financial and economic viability. What is certain is that the BRT system must be completed by 2029 to ensure that the secured funding is not lost.

By Michael Bruxo
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