Portugal's new conservative government today announced the suspension of the high-speed train link to Spain, although it maintained that it could be reconsidered at a later date and with a revised budget.
As had already been outlined in his electoral campaign, the new Portugese prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho (pictured, right), confirmed today that the project would not now go ahead, despite the fact that half the work on Portugese soil has already been done.
The decision, which will now be debated in the Legislative Assembly, means that the future rail link, which was started with EU funding and is already well advanced in Spain, could be re-evaluated in the future under "new conditions".
The conservative coalition government, that took over after the socialists were defeated in the elections on June 5th, included in its manifesto many more measures to save money in order to alleviate the recession and to be able to meet the terms of its international financial rescue package.
Pressure on Portugese debt forced former prime minister Sócrates to ask for financial help in April of this year, and in exchange for the 78 billion euros of aid granted by Brussels and the International Monetary Fund, the government in Lisbon has to adhere to a very strict programme of reduction in public spending.
As far as the high-speed train link (AVE) is concerned, Passos Coelho said: "the project could be subject to a re-evaluation, including the contents and calendar, with an eye on optimizing costs, under new conditions and taking into account the legal status of the contracts that have already been signed".
The AVE link between Lisbon and Madrid was supposed to have been opened in 2013. The high-speed rail projects between Spain and Portugal were revised two years ago, with both governments agreeing to delay the Vigo-Oporto link, which had also originally been scheduled to open in 2013.