Socialists query €50 million ‘saving plan’ for rail and road network

Government plans to merge the country’s Refer (rail network) with Estradas de Portugal (national road authority) will save Portugal a cool €50 million – but will they work? This is the question being asked by Socialists who say they were not even aware the government had done its homework on the idea.
Suggesting the move – earmarked for 2015 – is “ill prepared”, Socialist Eurico Brilhante Dias said that his party had no inkling of the working group that is meant to have decided that a merger will bring economic benefits.
Talking to Lusa, Dias said it is much more likely to bring extra spending and organisational “turbulence”.
“Either the government should set out clearly the advantages of a fusion, or this is just another poorly-prepared attempt to meddle in a very sensitive area,” he said.
Nonetheless the plan – announced on Thursday last week by secretary of state for infrastructures, transport and communications Sérgio Monteiro – is set to go ahead “as fast as possible”, writes Público, and is included in the government’s Plano Estratégico dos Transportes e Infra-estruturas (PETI), the strategic plan for transport and infrastructures.
The new company – to be called ‘Infra-estruturas de Portugal’ – will have a workforce of up to 4,000 people and manage a debt of over €10 billion euros, Monteiro announced. This suggests there will be inevitable staff layoffs, as EP currently employs 2,800 people, and Refer, at last count, had over 1,400.
Calling the plan “rational from a strategic point of view”, Economy Minister Pires de Lima said there was no point delaying the decision to push ahead. The government is expected to rubber stamp the merger plans later this month.
As Público points out, this latest fusion follows similar transport mergers in Lisbon and Porto.