TGV high speed rail link and international airport

news: TGV high speed rail link and international airport

AN AMBITIOUS public-private partnership (PPP) investment programme, designed to kick-start the Portuguese economy, was unveiled by Prime Minister José Sócrates last week.

The 25 billion euro ‘shot in the arm’ planned for the government’s first term includes a new, state of the art, international airport at Ota (100km north of Lisbon) and the long-awaited TGV high speed rail link between Lisbon and Porto and Madrid. From the 25 billion euros, 33 per cent will be ploughed into 200 projects, mostly in the transport sector, creating 120,000 new jobs.

The new high speed rail link is expected to suck up 1.5 billion euros, while the new Lisbon airport, which has been on the cards since 1998, will burn up a further 650 million euros. The energy sector will take up 5.5 billion euros (22 per cent of the total), with plans to build Portugal’s first nuclear power stations as well as increasing the capacity for wind and water driven generators (2.5 billion). A further 4.4 billion euros (18 per cent of the total) is to be invested in information technology, telecommunications, broadband uptake and computer modernisation in the government’s public services.

The plan was developed in conjunction with the Instituto Superior Técnico and the Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão and predicts that nine per cent of the investment (2.1 billion) has been earmarked for environmental projects.

In addition, 3.7 billion euros (15 per cent) will go on territorial projects and 795 million euros (three per cent) on social projects. With regards to urban re-qualification projects, 1.9 billion euros will be spent on improving the water and sewage treatment systems, 530 million euros on improving urban areas and 167 million euros on roads and rail within the large metropolitan areas, such as Greater Lisbon and Porto.

The total package is believed to represent 20 per cent of economic growth forecast until 2009.

At the session, an announcement was made by the Minister for the Ecomomy, Manuel Pinho, stating that 11.6 billion euros, an amount which corresponds to 46.6 per cent of the total, would be assured through public funding, and 13.3 billion euros by the private sector, of which 5.8 billion would be derived from PPP. The minister underlined the fact that this programme represents only one fifth of the total investments planned by the government during this term.

Airlines and travel agents against new airport at OTA

Air operators and linked businesses fear that the construction of a new airport at Ota could kill off competitiveness. Both the president of the Air Navigation Representatives, Rui Maia, and the President of the Portuguese Travel Agents Association, Vítor Filipe, complained last week about the new airport, saying that they had not been consulted by the government about the decision to build a new airport.

Rui Maia said the decision was a “purely political one made in the same spirit as if it was another shopping centre”. He added that Portela was still viable and that the airport could have been expanded in that area. “An airport at Ota is going to take away all of our business and goes against the spirit of re-qualifying Lisbon,” said Vítor Filipe.

Instead, they believe that the idea of creating a second airport for bucket, charter and low cost airlines, within the Lisbon area, at one of its military bases would be far more sensible. However, the new president of Aeroportos de Portugal SA (ANA), the Portuguese airports authority, Guilhermino Rodrigues, claimed that the cost of expanding Lisbon’s existing airport at Portela would be greater than building an entirely new airport at Ota from scratch: “The infrastructure needed to expand Portela by another terminal to carry an extra million passengers isn’t financially viable and would cost 50 million euros alone.

The work would mean that the peripheral area around the airport, which is already taken up by housing, would have to be bulldozed and the occupants compensated, making it far more costly.”

According to a study, Lisbon airport will have reached saturation point when the number of annual passengers reaches 15 million and flights landing and taking off at peak time reach 40. At present, the airport, which was modernised and expanded in the 1990s for Expo 98, can cater for 34 planes an hour.

Guilhermino Rodrigues also pointed out that the estimated investment for Ota is 30 billion euros, of which 18 per cent would come out of public funds.

The government is currently negotiating a loan covering 15 per cent of the total from the European Investment Bank, while 20 per cent would come from raising shares by the government privatising its stake in ANA.

Chris Graeme