12 minutes

It seems to me that the vision and investment in a means of transport that is increasingly valued around the world are quite “relative”.

Today, the career of a friend ends, whom I will call D, from now on, to preserve his identity.

For 36 years, he left Silves (the station where I also get on the train) and came to Faro, come rain or shine, to fulfill your work schedule.

During these 36 years, traveling along the railway on the regional train, which connects Lagos to Faro, you saw it all: strikes, protests, delays, waiting, crowded trains, lack of air conditioning, vandalized and not very clean carriages, suicides, accidents, police inside and outside the train, few timetable options...

Anyway, when I say I saw everything, I really saw everything, with the exception of one thing: a true and active desire to improve this means of transport, which, for those who don't know, serves many more people than you think: students, workers who go to different locations, lots of tourists and occasional travelers, who invariably fill the carriages completely, to the point that there are times when the doors, the corridors, all the vacant spaces, are occupied either by large suitcases or by standing passengers .

On the trips we take, we end up creating relationships of friendship and companionship, which lead us to share information, create groups for this, in which even the kindest employees participate, who often help us to know that a composition is circulating delayed or suppressed for any reason, allowing us to find alternatives to arrive or depart. And I believe that the same happens to those who usually travel between Faro and Vila Real de Santo António.

We will follow the announced measures, we will comment, we will be surprised by what is still happening…

A few days ago, the Minister of Infrastructure João Galamba (now disgraced...), accompanied by the Secretary of State for Infrastructure Frederico Francisco and local authorities, took a train trip on a regional train.

It came out, pay attention, Faro and traveled to Olhão. A short journey that lasted, yes, 12 minutes!

Between Faro and Olhão, we only have the Bom João station and, I have a hunch, the train on which the delegation followed didn't leave late (God forbid!), it wasn't one of those that goes during rush hour (constraints are an uncomfortable thing , of course!) and the windows had probably been cleaned, to take advantage of the beautiful view of the Ria Formosa that you have in this section (it's important to reinforce the tourist value of this means of transport, then?!).

The big news given by the minister was that «expects to close very quickly» a tender, launched in 2021, for the acquisition of 117 new railcars electricity, worth 819 million euros…. The first train should arrive in 2026 and all trains will be in circulation in 2029…

The minister said that, «with this investment in infrastructure and rolling stock» they intend to «overcome the relative abandonment of the railway for a long time – too long – and provide our country with a modern, reliable, safe and non-polluting system».

The government, he highlighted, is committed to reinforcing «the attention» given to «the railway, after “many years of not investing, of disinvesting in the railway”».

In the Algarve, so much modernization involves the ongoing work, which aims to electrify the line «in two sections – Faro-Vila Real de Santo António (56 kilometers) and Tunes-Lagos (45 kilometers)", which will end in 2024... but electric railcars will only arrive between 2026 and 2029... And when all this is finished, we will have a reduction in the total route , mind you, 25 minutes! There is plenty of it, on a line, which is really a line, that is, there can only be one train running in one direction and another in another, often having one of them having to wait at a station or in the middle of the route, because there are not two lines!

Aurélio Nuno Cabrita, in an article entitled “The train arrived in «Portimão» on February 15, 1903, 120 years ago”, notes the “saga” that led to the arrival of this means of transport in the Barlavento Algarve and says: «After 120 years, the now called Linha do Algarve is once again under construction, with a view to its electrification. If, in 1903, the delay in the construction of the road compared to Faro was 14 years, more than a century later this delay is even greater, only 20 years after the catenary reached Faro it will be a reality in Portimão».

Well, it seems to me that the vision and investment in a means of transport that is increasingly valued throughout the world, due to the possibilities of being much more sustainable than others (such as cars, which are mostly circulated in the Algarve), they are quite “relative” and the peaks mentioned by the president of the IP Board of Directors, Miguel Cruz, are peaks like egg whites, quite fickle, if the true volume of needs is not taken into account.

But let's trust! Let's be very positive! Twelve minutes were enough for Minister Galamba to testify “the importance that this improved service, with all the interventions we have been making and want to accelerate, will have in this territory and in people's lives”.

I'm sorry that I hadn't taken the route from Vila Real to Lagos and spoken to those who use the train daily; not wait in the rain at Bom João and other stations, because the train is late; who didn't realize that almost every day you wait for Intercidades in Tunes (sometimes 50 minutes); who didn't see that there are many people (especially students) who between 12:25 pm and 16:17 pm have no possibility of returning home, because there are no trains; that did not see that the trains are permanently damaged and the workers, even if they want to, often cannot do more; that anyone who leaves home on the 6:10am train from Lagos and arrives back at 19:26pm is discriminated against in relation to all urban areas, where trains run much more frequently and serve the population in another way.

Let us trust, distrusting…. 12 minutes is an eternity for some and so little for others.



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