PRIME MINISTER José Sócrates is to finally reopen Lisbon’s Rossio tunnel and station in a new, state-of-the-art Alfa Pendular train tomorrow (Saturday).
It will be the first time that 70,000 passengers that used to use the Sintra to Lisbon commuter line service will see the Italian-made train at the station.
The journey, which will take place between the stations of Campolide and Rossio, will commemorate the reopening of both the tunnel and station which have been shut for three years.
The 2.6km tunnel itself was closed after dangerous cracks were discovered in the superstructure of the 19th century tunnel which had been built in 1889-1890 in the then record time of one year and 10 months at a cost of 730,000 Reis.
Refurbishing the new tunnel has set the government back a hefty 49.5 million euros – 10 million euros over budget.
During the afternoon on Saturday, the Portuguese public rail company Comboios de Portugal (CP) will provide shuttle trains free-of-charge between Roma-Areeiro and Rossio stations so that the general public can visit the revamped station.
The line itself will be officially up and running on Sunday when services between Sintra and Lisbon will run normally, ending years of misery for commuters.
However, there will be two less services in each direction than had existed before the tunnel’s closure. Before the closure there had been eight trains an hour using the tunnel – from Sunday there will be only six.
The decision was taken by CP because the rail company is expecting six per cent less passengers using the line than there were in 2004.
Of the actual 12 trains an hour used at rush hour on the Sintra line in both directions, six will serve Rossio and the others will end their journey at Roma-Areeiro.
CP said that the new timetable corresponded to concentrating services and signalling at three mainline stations – Rossio, Entrecampos and Sete-Rios which are all served by metro links.
The company also stated that both Cacém and Benfica would see trains stopping every five minutes at rush hour.
CP also said that studies had shown that the tunnel closure had resulted in a fall in passenger numbers using train services of around six per cent. It has also demanded 11 million euros from the rail track company Rede Ferroviária Nacional (REFER) in lost revenue because of the works delays.
The journey through the tunnel will now take three minutes less than it used to take since trains can travel at speeds of 90 km/h.
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