Spain vows to push for high-speed rail links to Portugal
Spanish Transport Minister Jose Blanco was reacting to Portugal Social Democratic Party leader's comments that she would scrap high-speed rail plans if her centre-right party wins an upcoming election.Madrid – Spain vowed Monday to push ahead with the construction of high-speed rail links to Portugal despite threats by the main opposition party there to scrap the project if it wins a general election.
"We have plans to build high-speed rail links to Badajoz and Vigo which will in time link up to Portugal and we are going to maintain them," Spanish Transport Minister Jose Blanco told private television Telecinco.
He was reacting to comments made Saturday by the leader of Portugal's Social Democratic Party (PSD), Manuela Ferreira Leite, who said she would scrap plans to link Lisbon and Madrid and Oporto, Portugal's second city, with Vigo, if her centre-right party wins a 27 September general election.
"The level of indebtedness of the country makes this project unsustainable," she said during a televised debate with Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates.
Spain and Portugal agreed at a summit in 2003, at a time when Ferreira Leite was finance minister in a PSD government, to build the high-speed rail links between their two countries.
Portugal's public deficit is expected to rise this year to nearly 6.0 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), twice the amount allowed by the European Union, in the midst of the global economic slowdown.
Socrates defends the project, saying it will help fight unemployment, which has risen above 9.0 percent, and deepen Portugal's ties with Spain, the country's main trading partner.
While Portugal currently has no high-speed rail links, Spain plans to have 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) of high-speed railway track in place by 2020, meaning 90 percent of Spain's population will live less than 50 kilometres from a bullet train station.
AFP / Expatica