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TGV plans officially shelved

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TGV plans officially shelved

Post by Pedro Silva on Thu Apr 05, 2012 5:37 am

Portugal’s planned TGV high-speed railway network “has been shelved (…) on taking into consideration the reasons handed down by the court of auditors”, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho has acknowledged.
The Prime Minister was speaking following a series of reports that the TGV was joining Lisbon’s planned new international airport on the list of major infrastructural projects now shelved in the name of austerity.
The Court of Auditors had ruled last week that it would not be granting approval to a tender process that had awarded the first section of high speed rail track construction due to violations in the technical specifications.
The Ministry of Economy then confirmed that the court’s decision “served, from the government’s perspective, as closure to all the controversy surrounding the TGV project.”
The ministry has since issued a statement saying “in terms of trans-European railway networks, its priority is a European-standard freight infrastructure operating from Sines and Aveiro in order to boost the competitive conditions of Portuguese exports.”
Although the Spanish minister responsible, Ana Pastor, said on Thursday in Brussels that a meeting between representatives of the Portuguese, Spanish and French governments was planned “in the next few days,” this is now only about discussing the alternatives planned by Lisbon to the original TGV link.
Hence, the prime minister’s comments seem to draw a line under a project that the previous government had once touted as crucial to overcoming Portugal’s peripheral status within the European Union.
Reacting to the news, Socialist MP and former junior minister for transports Ana Paula Vitorino said it was “absolutely unbelievable” that the government had decided to abandon the TGV line to the Spanish border.
“In a recent meeting in Spain, Portugal’s Minister of Economy Alvaro Santos Pereira told his Spanish counterpart that he would review the project but now says it has been shelved”, she said.
Vitorino also criticised the negative opinion issued by Lisbon’s Audit Court on the high-speed line saying “there are political considerations that should not be made by the Audit Court”.
Asked if the TGV would have been financially viable, the former junior minister said “there is money” to build it.
Meanwhile, national construction unions said the decision not to progress with a high-speed railway line to the Spanish border could force one of the main contractors, Soares da Costa, to dismiss “hundreds” of excess workers.
Soares da Costa, along with motorway operator Brisa led a consortium that had won the building contract that has been thrown out by Lisbon’s Audit Court leading the Portuguese government to “definitively abandon” the TGV project.
The construction company has recently been negotiating “friendly redundancies” with “more than 200 workers” recently and has another 200 workers that should finish a motorway project in the north east of the country that would have been transferred to the high-speed line but will now be surplus to requirements.
Soares da Costa Chairman António Castro Henriques told Lusa News Agency that he “hoped to substitute these losses with the foreign jobs, particularly in Angola and Mozambique.

Pedro Silva
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