Coimbra City Council sees high-speed rail as a strategic project for the municipality

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Coimbra City Council considers the high-speed rail network to be a strategic project that should go ahead quickly, even if it has some negative impacts on the municipality, such as Quinta das Cunhas, a town that could disappear.

When Estrela Dias, 70, heard that her house could collapse with the high-speed rail network in the summer of 2023, she had “a heart attack” and had to go to hospital.

Since then, the inhabitant of Quinta das Cunhas, who has always lived there near the border between the municipality of Coimbra and Condeixa-a-Nova, has needed medication to sleep at night, given the possibility that almost the entire village, with around ten houses and a population of 15 to 20 people, could disappear.

“The house is cheap, but even though it’s cheap, I made it, plus my husband. Now, after all this time, and an expensive life, we’re going to be homeless?” Estrela Dias told Lusa news agency.

The high-speed rail project, the route of which in Coimbra, in the southern area, did not take up the option defended by the municipality, foresees the possibility of demolishing around 60 homes in the municipality.

“In all the municipalities crossed by the high-speed rail network, there will be people affected and that is inevitable. What we need to do is ensure that this impact is kept to a minimum and that people are properly compensated so that they can resume their lives as close as possible to where they lived with the same or even better conditions than they had,” the mayor of Coimbra, José Manuel Silva, elected by the Juntos Somos Coimbra coalition (led by the PSD), told Lusa.

Faced with the possibility of demolition, the municipality has set up a support office to monitor these situations and has already received three residents.

However, for the mayor, the positive effects of this investment for the municipality far outweigh its negative impacts.

For José Manuel Silva, high speed rail is a fundamental investment for Coimbra and must go ahead “as soon as possible”.

This investment “has been discussed for many years and it is essential for Portugal to move forward quickly with this project and, for Coimbra, it is of strategic importance,” he said.

The mayor recalled that high-speed rail brings Coimbra “closer to two airports”, which will now serve the city “directly, with the same times as practically every city in Europe”.

In addition to an approach to Porto and Lisbon, the project also includes the construction of an intermodal station in Coimbra-B.

In addition to the positive impacts associated with high speed itself, the region could gain from the decongestion of the Northern Line, which will be doubled on arrival in Coimbra, the mayor of Mealhada, António Jorge Franco (elected by a citizens’ movement), told Lusa.

In that municipality, the option that will have the least impact was chosen and, even with some damage, especially in vineyard areas, the municipality stresses that the benefits outweigh the negative impacts.

“Our connection to Coimbra has to be by rail. […] It’s essential to free up this corridor so that the Northern Line becomes a more urban line,” he stressed.

In Quinta das Cunhas, the population is still clinging to the hope that the demolition of the houses can be avoided.

The president of the Ameal, Taveiro and Arzila Parish Council, Jorge Mendes (CDU), stresses the same hope that the project could be revised, since the town “is surrounded by forest and a detour of 100 or 200 meters would no longer pass over the houses”.

“We are convinced that this will happen,” he noted, recalling that the preparatory meetings with Coimbra City Council and Infraestruturas de Portugal also point to this possibility, at the execution project stage.

Manuel Vaz, who was born and has lived in Quinta das Cunhas practically all his life, also clings to the words of the Infraestruturas de Portugal technicians who assured him that it might be possible to avoid demolition.

Amid doubts, the resident asks at least for the project to go ahead.

“I’m 63 years old. If it’s to start and it’s this way, then let’s start as soon as possible. If it’s to stop and in ten years’ time it’ll be the same again, I’ll have a lot more trouble. It’s a public work that’s useful for the country. If it’s to go ahead, let it go ahead now,” he says.

For Manuel Vaz, above all, a certain impasse is bothering him, which now seems to have been broken after the PSD gave the green light in Parliament for the government to go ahead with the tender.

“I bought paint for some rooms that I’ve recently renovated, and those rooms are still unpainted and I’ve got the paint and I don’t have the courage to do anything. I don’t feel like doing it. I’m going to do it only to ruin it tomorrow? There’s no point. So, if it’s to be, let it be now, but let there be a chance – and I think there is – to turn the page [and change the layout],” he said.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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