Spain, Portugal and France rally round high-speed rail

The transport ministers of the three Mediterranean countries signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday pledging full political support for a high-speed rail network connecting the three countries. The document also asks the EU to prioritise the rail axis with more funding.

The transport ministers of Spain, Portugal and France put pen to paper yesterday on a memorandum of understanding pledging their political support for a high-speed rail (HSR) network connecting the three Mediterranean countries.

The document, signed at the start of a two-day conference in Zaragoza on the trans-European transport networks (TEN-T), also petitions the European Commission to prioritise the Mediterranean HSR axis with more funding.

Dispelling any doubts about whether a recently announced €6.4 billion of cuts to the Spanish transport ministry’s budget would affect the Lisbon-Madrid HSR line, José Blanco, Spain’s transport minister, told his Portuguese counterpart that he was fully committed to the Lisbon-Madrid link and that it would be unaffected.

Portugal has signed a contract with a Brisa-led consortium for the €1.5 billion first stretch of the Lisbon-Madrid HSR. However, Portugal’s transport minister Antonio Mendonca said the second part of the line – a €2 billion portion set to have been awarded to a team led by Spanish firm FCC – will be revised and retendered later this year as the country seeks to cut spending as part of recently announced austerity measures.

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