Report: Portugal, Spain & France to sign high-speed rail MOU

The three countries are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding in early June to guarantee EU financing for the high-speed corridor interconnecting their capitals.

António Mendonça, Portugal’s transport minister, said today that Portugal, Spain and France will sign a memorandum of understanding to guarantee financing for the high-speed rail (HSR) corridor interconnecting Lisbon, Madrid and Paris, according to local media reports.

Portugal, Spain & France:
pooling efforts for HSR

The agreement is due to be signed by all three countries’ transport ministers on June 8 and 9, committing the three countries to the HSR corridor linking their capitals and asking the European Union (EU) to consider it a high priority, in a bid to guarantee EU funds.

Mendonça's announcement came on the sidelines of a heated parliamentary debate where Portugal’s main opposition parties asked the government to delay its HSR plans for at least three years, given the country’s debt problems.

The opposition also seized on a recent statement by José Blanco, Spain’s transport minister, in which the minister said he would cut €6.4 billion from Spain’s public works programme. Blanco added the cuts would delay most of Spain’s intended HSR plans by at least a year with part of it being permanently cancelled. However, Mendonça says Blanco assured him that the Spanish part of the Lisbon-Madrid HSR is still on track to be built by 2013, as originally planned.

Portugal recently signed a contract with a Brisa-led consortium for the €1.45 billion first stretch of the Lisbon-Madrid HSR. However, Mendonca said the second part of the line – a €2 billion portion on track to have been awarded to a team led by Spanish firm FCC – will be revised and retendered later this year.

The other lines of what was once estimated to have been an €8.5 billion HSR programme have been put off indefinitely.