The creation of a light rail system in the Algarve, based on a new line between Faro and Portimão, along the coast, serving Gago Coutinho Airport and the cities of Quarteira and Albufeira, using trains of the type tram, is one of the proposals of the National Railway Plan, which was approved in general by the Council of Ministers on Thursday, the 17th, and is now subject to public consultation.
This solution also opens the door to line extensions to Vila do Bispo and Loulé, which «has its railway station quite far away», according to the plan, a «strategic document that defines a long-term vision for the railway in Portugal , based on the objective of bringing the train to all district capitals and to the most dynamic demographic, economic and functional locations», according to the Government.
The proposed Light Mobility System model «allows a start of operation in road mode, with a lower initial investment cost, but without excluding its future conversion to a light rail system».
«These systems must be developed in order to be interoperable with the general network, in a model of tram train🇧🇷 In fact, light rolling stock may even have some advantages from the point of view of occupying infrastructure capacity. Even so, the creation of a frequent local service will necessarily lead to the need to increase capacity on the Algarve Line», predicts the National Railway Plan.
In practice, it was included in the plan the proposal of the Mais Ferrovia Movement to create an Algarve Coastal Line, presented at a consultation session with entities and citizens of the Algarve, which took place in Faro, in July 2021.
The movement suggested the construction of a line of tram train to serve cities on the coast that are not served by the railway, complementary to the one that was already planned for the Airport, the University of the Algarve and Parque das Cidades.
This work is, moreover, foreseen in the Portugal 2030 investment proposal.
Between Faro and Vila Real de Santo António, no changes are expected beyond the electrification already underway, since «the cities of Olhão, Tavira and VRSA are well served by stations close to the centre. In addition, travel times between them on a train with no other stops are competitive with the highway, even without considering line speed increases».
Another possibility would be the transformation of the Algarve Line into a light rail system, but this «would make direct connections from the entire Sotavento to Lisbon via Intercity train unfeasible», which will be possible from the moment the electrification is completed.
The plan is, however, silent as to the future intermodal station at Patacão – or in the Parque das Cidades area, according to the ambition of the Loulé Council – and a new section that will allow the line to be moved from the center of Faro.
However, the image in the plan already seems to assume the alternative route, removing the line from the center of the Algarve capital.
In the near future, with the conclusion of the electrification of the Algarve Line, consideration should be given to «the creation of continuous services between Lagos and Vila Real de Santo António, avoiding the need to transfer Faro for most trips between Barlavento and Sotavento».
«The introduction of electric rolling stock should, by itself, bring about a reduction in travel times, but it would be worth studying whether there is an advantage in creating Interregional services with fewer stops throughout the Algarve that, in addition to the Intercidades that connecting to Lisbon, can ensure faster connections to the entire region», the document also mentions.