PORTUGAL has released its new National Railway Plan (PFN), which sets out a programme to build a high-speed network connecting the country’s 10 largest cities by 2050 and provide new routes to Spain.

During the official presentation of the plan, Portugal’s minister of infrastructure, Mr Pedro Nuno Santos, said work is already underway on the new Évora - Elvas line, which will eventually enable direct high-speed services to operate between Lisbon and Madrid.

Also projected are the new Porto - Lisbon high-speed line and the first phase of the Porto - Vigo line, including the Braga - Vigo section and a connection to Porto airport.

The network expansion project includes the new Aveiro - Viseu - Guarda - Vilar Formoso line, which will achieve the aim of connecting the country's 10 largest cities with high-speed services. The line will provide a connection to the Spanish border, enabling a journey time of three hours from Lisbon and Porto to Madrid following the completion of infrastructure work in Spain.

The PFN says studies are underway for the line from Lisbon to the Algarve region, with two alternatives under consideration: upgrading the existing line to cut journey times by around 30 minutes, or new line that serves Evora, Beja and Faro that will connect Lisbon and Faro in less than two hours.

A third bridge over the River Tagus in Lisbon is proposed, which would further reduce the journey time from Lisbon to the Alentejo and Algarve regions by 30 minutes.  

Expanding the rail network is expected to increase rail’s share of passenger journeys from 4.6% to 20%, while rail freight’s modal share is expected to rise from 13% to 40%. The PFN also plans to offer high-quality rail connections to 28 regional urban centres, including all district capitals.