Olhão in uproar over “Berlin Wall”

Hoist by its own petard, Olhão council is feeling the effects of arbitrary action this week – from the hands of national rail authority Refer.
The council that has been getting flak for changing its ancient town without consulting locals has suddenly discovered just how it feels to be taken unpleasantly by surprise.
Refer has made the “incomprehensible” decision to shut off one of the main arteries of the community at night.
The closure of the pedestrian crossing on Avenida Bernardino da Silva has been “manifestly damaging to the public interest, in particular to the security and mobility of Olhão’s citizens,” claims outraged mayor António Miguel Ventura Pina, whose party has likened the nighttime blockade as an Algarvian equivalent of the Berlin Wall.
At issue is a level crossing that would cost a great deal more to upgrade and secure than it does to close – which locals suspect very possibly explains Refer’s action.
The alternative underpass offered by the railway authority is steep and potentially dangerous for the elderly, claims Pina who is now calling for a solution “compatible with the needs of citizens and in the public interest”.
Ironically, Jornal do Algarve writes that there have been no known accidents on the crossing for the last 20 years.
Socialist councillors say there are far more accident black spots that could do with this kind of action before Refer starts limiting mobility around Olhão.
But the controversy has left some people chuckling. The old town’s citizens’ group “I love Olhão” – formed only last month in protest to “dubious improvements” pushed through by the council – hopes Refer’s action will highlight the importance of public consultation.