Lisbon-Madrid train in three hours only after 2030

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The Spanish Minister of Transportation has already informed João Galamba about the development of the Vigo-Porto connection. Raquel Sánchez rules out the return of night trains with Portugal.

It will have to wait until 2030 for a train between Lisbon and Madrid to be more competitive than cars and planes. Before then, the Spanish Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, is only committed to restoring a direct train between the two Iberian capitals. In a telephone interview with ECO and Público, the Spanish governor has already informed her Portuguese counterpart, João Galamba, of the start of studies so that Vigo can receive high-speed trains from Portugal.

Currently, passengers have to take three trains to travel between Lisbon and Madrid, a journey that takes nine hours. From 2024, the travel time between the two Iberian capitals will vary between five hours and five hours and 30 minutes, slightly less than by car (six hours). Asked if Renfe [CP’s Spanish counterpart] will be able to operate the Madrid-Lisbon train from then on, the minister replies: “This year, already with the electrification between Plasencia and Badajoz, and we hope to reduce travel times”.

On the Portuguese side, the only high-speed line will be between Évora and Elvas, where Infraestruturas de Portugal is building 90 kilometers of new track. Only on this section will a train be able to travel up to 250 km/h, the minimum threshold for high speed. Until it reaches Évora, the train will not exceed 220 km/h; between Lisbon and Pragal, it will not exceed 60 km/h because of the 25 de Abril bridge crossing.

On the Spanish side, only a 150-kilometer stretch between Badajoz and Plasencia has been completed, and electrification will be completed “in the first half” of this year, says Raquel Sánchez. With regard to the Oropesa-Madrid section, “the information study with the environmental impact assessment has already been carried out. The Oropesa-Plasencia line has yet to be included. “In the Spanish part, the link will become a reality within the timeframe established by the European Union for the Atlantic Corridor: the year 2030, but of course we would like to be able to bring this date forward,” predicts the Minister.

“We are working so that in the future it will be possible to travel from Madrid to Lisbon in between three and four hours,” predicts the Minister. With this time advantage, the train will be faster than the car. In terms of air travel, the train can win if you take into account boarding and disembarking times at Portela and Barajas airports. Even in the Iberian gauge, “we will do our best, given the configuration of our network, so that the trains can circulate at 300 km/h,” he says.

On the Portuguese side, the journey could take 30 minutes less if the Chelas-Barreiro rail bridge is built, which is not planned until at least 2030.

Galamba informed about Vigo
Also by 2030, the journey between Oporto and Vigo should take one hour, reducing the current time by more than an hour. This will require work on both sides of the border: in Portugal, a new section will be built between Braga and Valença, with no intermediate stops, at a cost of 1.25 billion euros.

In Spain, the southern exit of the Vigo Urzaiz station will have to be built, involving a tunnel of more than 10 kilometers. The contract will cost between 573.4 and 686.6 million euros, according to the proposals published last week and prior to the launch of the informational study by the Spanish state. “This is news of great importance because we are moving forward with this project. And at the Iberian Summit I passed on this information to my Portuguese counterpart [João Galamba],” added the Minister.

Pedro Sánchez’s government is thus responding to the statements made by the former Minister of Infrastructure, Pedro Nuno Santos. “The challenge I’ve launched here is for Spain to tie its shoes so that we don’t run the risk of reaching the border with a line and having nothing on the other side,” said the minister in April 2022.

Signing the agreement
First, Portugal and Spain must reach an agreement on the Celta train. The line is electrified on both sides of the border, but with different overhead line voltages (25,000 volts in Portugal and 3,000 volts from the border to Vigo) and different driver assistance systems: Convel (Portugal) and Asfa (Spain).

For the Spanish minister, “coordination with Infraestruturas de Portugal is necessary for the safe integration of this connection. We need to find compatible signalling so that electric trains can travel between the two countries. Until the situation is resolved, the diesel railcars will be operated by three class 592 cars rented by Portugal from Renfe.

A similar incompatibility may occur at the Vilar Formoso border. By the end of this year, after six years of work, the electrification between Salamanca and Fuentes de Oñoro [which connects to the Beira Alta line] will finally be completed. In this case, the lines in both countries have the same catenary voltage (25,000 volts). The train control systems are different and can only work together on the older rolling stock, which will require an understanding between the authorities of the two countries.

Further down the line is the return of night trains, three years after the connections between Lisbon and Madrid (Lusitania) and between Lisbon and Hendaye (Sud-Expresso). “It is not one of the priorities we have for the recovery of internal connections, but the positioning of the European Union on night trains for cross-border relations is a question that we are open to analyze”, adds the Minister.

The Lusitânia was withdrawn by a unilateral decision by Renfe, CP’s Spanish counterpart and the national carrier’s partner in this service. The connection between Lisbon and Madrid generated annual losses of two million euros. On the Sud Expresso, CP leased the rolling stock to Renfe, which operated it together until Medina del Campo. On this service, the Portuguese carrier recorded losses of three million euros per year.

Source: https://eco.sapo.pt/2023/03/24/comboio-lisboa-madrid-em-tres-horas-so-depois-de-2030/

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