HIDDEN behind what appears to be a nondescript building near the centre of Lisbon is a project that will change how residents move around the lively city centre. Standing on the road side, there is little to give away the large scale of the project that is underway. But move around the back of the building, an old army hospital, and you’ll find a gaping hole leading down to a cavern that will soon become the new Estrela station.

The station is one of two new stations under construction on the 2km underground line that will connect Cais do Sodré, the southern terminus of the Green Line, with Rato, the southern terminus of the Yellow Line.

Following the opening of this new section, which has two stations at Estrela and Santos, the Green Line will operate as a circular line, while the Yellow Line will be diverted from Campo Grande to terminate at Telheiras, the existing northern terminus of the Green Line. Both lines will continue to interchange with each other at Campo Grande.

When construction is complete, passengers will travel from the ticketing hall down to the platforms via six high-speed glass lifts, as the station is too deep to use escalators.

“The Circle Line project will help to restructure the entire transport system,” says Lisbon Metro. “It will reorganise metropolitan mobility by increasing the use of public transport while decreasing the use of individual transport, resulting in significant environmental gains while also ensuring safety and improving the quality of service that Lisbon Metro provides to its customers on a daily basis.”

The new circular line will reduce the number of times passengers need to change trains to travel into central Lisbon, a common complaint among the Lisbon travelling public, and is expected to attract 9 million new passengers in its first year, increasing ridership on the metro network as a whole by 5.3% and removing 2.6 million private vehicles a year from the city’s roads. It will also reduce annual CO₂ emissions by 4200 tonnes.

Lisbon's deepest station

At 60m below ground level, Estrela station will be the deepest in Portugal and one of the deepEst in Europe. Visiting the site of the under-construction station is impressive. The façade of the hospital pharmacy has been retained to house the station entrance and ticket halls. Beside it, a 30m-wide shaft has been dug 60m down to allow the station to be excavated below.

When construction is complete, passengers will travel from the ticketing hall down to the platforms via six high-speed glass lifts, as the station is too deep to use escalators.

Access to the under-construction tunnels is via scaffold stairs near Rato station and while it is not as deep as Estrela station, it still takes several minutes to reach the tunnel floor. The initial tunnelling was undertaken during the construction of the Yellow Line, in anticipation that another line would be built to either connect with the Green Line or to extend the Yellow Line further to the west.

From Rato, the tunnel floor slopes steadily down to Estrela station at a gradient of 4% before opening up to the underground atrium that will house the platforms of Estrela station. Along the tunnel, some sections of tunnel wall have been fully completed while others have been lined with PVC plastic to prevent water ingress ahead of a second coating of concrete.

Tunnelling between Rato and Estrela station was completed in May 2022. In the same month a €73.5m contract for construction of Lot 2 of the Circle Line project, comprising tunnelling work between the new Santos and existing Cais do Sodré stations, was formally awarded to a joint venture of Mota Engil and Spie Batignolles International.

The entrance to Santos station will be located in a former fire station, with the platforms here 25m below the surface.

Lisbon Metro announced on April 13 that it had awarded the contract for Lot 4 to a consortium of Zagope, Comsa and ACE for €69.9m. The contract covers finishing works, including masonry, cladding, metalwork, furniture and signage at stations, as well as hydraulic, electrical, telecommunications and technical installation supervision systems, data and security networks, tracklaying and ticketing systems.

At the other end of the Circle Line, Lot 3 comprises building new viaducts to extend Campo Grande station, currently an interchange between the Yellow and Green lines. Once the Circle Line is in operation at the end of 2024, Yellow Line services from Odivelas will head westwards to terminate at Telheiras, the former terminus of the Green Line, instead of carrying on southwards towards Rato.

Red Line extension

The Circle Line is not the only project underway to improve Lisbon’s metro network.

Lisbon Metro and Recuperar Portugal, the body overseeing the country’s Covid-19 Recovery and Resilience Plan 2026 (PRR), signed an agreement in October 2021 to provide €304m for the Red Line metro extension and €390m for the Violet light rail line from Odivelas to Loures. The funding for the Red Line project is conditional on completion by December 31 2026, and for the Violet rail line by June 30 2026.

The Red Line extension will run for 4km from the current western terminus at São Sebastião with three new underground stations at Campolide/ Amoreiras, Campo de Ourique and Infante Santo, while the new terminus at Alcântara will be built on the surface.

Lisbon Metro launched a tender for civil works on the line in February. The project has a budget of €405.4m, revised from the original estimate of €304m at the end of 2022 due to higher prices for raw materials and labour. Potential bidders had until April 30 to express their interest in the contract. The project is due for completion by the end of 2026.

Interchange will be provided at Alcântara with the future Western Sustainable Intermodal Line (Lios), a 24.4km light rail line running west to Cruz Quebrada.

According to Portugal’s minister of the environment and climate action, Mr Duarte Cordeiro, the extension should attract an additional 25 million passengers a year, replacing 1.9 million car journeys and saving 24,000 tonnes of CO₂ emissions.

Tendering is also due to begin later this year for the 13km light rail Violet Line, which will have 19 stations between Hospital Beatriz Ângelo and Infantado, including an interchange with the northern terminus of the Yellow Line at Odivelas station. The line includes 7.4km in the Loures district, which will serve the Santo António dos Cavaleiros area with 11 stations, and 5.1km in the Odivelas district, which will serve the Póvoa de Santo Adrião, Olival Basto, Odivelas, Ramada and Caneças areas, with eight stations.

Alongside the expansion of the network, services are also being improved with the upgrading of the signalling system, also due to be completed at the end of 2024.

Portugal’s Court of Auditors approved a €114.5m contract for new trains and CBTC awarded by Lisbon Metro to a consortium of Stadler and Siemens Mobility in January 2020. Under the contract, Stadler is supplying 14 three-car metro trains, while Siemens is installing its Trainguard CBTC system on the Blue, Yellow and Green lines as well as installing onboard CBTC on 70 trains in the existing fleet and the 14 new trains. This will initially allow operation at Grade of Automation 2 (GoA2) but will also have the ability to be upgraded to GoA4, to allow the service to be fully driverless in the future.

Stadler has adopted a modular design for the new fleet to facilitate maintenance. The trains feature lightweight stainless steel car bodies and will have three double doors per side to enable passengers to board and alight quickly and easily.

The 49.6m-long, 2.78m-wide vehicles will have 90 seats arranged longitudinally, two spaces for wheelchairs, and standing capacity for 450 people at six people per m2. The new fleet will increase comfort and accessibility for passengers, and will feature enhanced communications, safety and CCTV systems.

The contract also includes the implementation of Automatic Train Protection (ATP), Automatic Train Operation (ATO) and Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) on the Blue, Yellow and Green lines of Lisbon’s four-line metro network.

The first three-car train will be delivered in February of 2024, while the final train is due to be delivered in January of 2025.