March 25, 2023

The Spanish-Portuguese summit held this week has come out with an agreement for the governments of Spain and Portugal to improve rail connectivity between the two countries, which is currently practically non-existent. This agreement opens the door to the return to Lisbon of the public operator Renfe, which until the arrival of the pandemic provided a train-hotel service that disappeared due to its operational deficit. Sánchez and Costa endorsed in Lanzarote a series of agreements to improve the routes on both sides of the line that also respond to the requirements of liberalization and integration of systems proposed by the European Commission.

Among the agreed measures, two key elements were found so that both Renfe and Comboios de Portugal (CP), the Portuguese public operator, can circulate on the roads of their respective neighbor. On the one hand, CP train drivers will be exempt from accrediting a B1 level of Spanish; and on the other, the government has slipped that Renfe has requested the necessary safety certificate to operate trains on the Portuguese roads.

This would allow Renfe to carry out an old aspiration: to resume operations beyond the border and return to Lisbon. This route, operated at night for decades with the now-defunct Lusitania train-hotel, can be done faster since last year, when the new line between Plasencia, Cáceres and Badajoz came into service. The new 150 kilometers of platform managed to reduce travel times by 51 minutes.

The road to Lisbon will be even faster when Portugal launches its first high-speed line, a 90-kilometre section between Évora and Elvas that will continue to shorten the time to reach the Portuguese capital by allowing speeds of 300 km/h. On the Spanish side, everything is ready, since on March 6 the connection of the Extremadura LAV with the logistics platform of southwestern Europe, located near the border, was launched.

Madrid-Lisbon in 6 hours

730. These could overcome the fact that the Portuguese roads are not electrified, by using both electricity and diesel. For this year, the catenary of the new section of Extremadura is expected to be put into tension, something that would allow increasing commercial speed and extending the autonomy of the trains to reach the Oriente station.

As with the connections to France, the only limitation that prevents Renfe from operating in Portugal is the traffic management system that allows trains to communicate with the infrastructure. While Spain has a standard European system, ERTMS, the Portuguese operate with Convel, an obsolete system. To resolve this, a project is underway to translate the language of the Portuguese system and transfer it to the desk of current trains, a procedure approved by the European Railway Agency but with a completion date of 2025.

With the signaling problem solved, it would remain to be seen how long the trains would take to link Madrid and Lisbon. Today, the Badajoz-Madrid route takes 4 hours and 17 minutes, a time that will be reduced to around four hours once the Extremadura highway is electrified.

Therefore, and for the near future, the train between the Spanish and Portuguese capitals would take around 6 hours, a time that could be reduced by half an hour if the Mérida variant is completed, and much more if the rest of the line is executed. high speed between Plasencia and Madrid, including the passage through Toledo.

CP wants to grow in the Atlantic axis

The Portuguese, on the other hand, are focused on being able to operate trains between Porto and A Coruña, taking advantage of the fact that the railway line that connects the city of A Coruña with Santiago de Compostela, Pontevedra and Vigo has the same (Iberian) gauge as the Portuguese railways. . But to make it competitive, both countries must invest in improving the infrastructure up to the borders, beginning with the rehabilitation of the international bridge over the Miño river.

The planes of the Costa government are going to reach Galicia at high speed in the year 2030 and Lisbon-Madrid.

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