Olhão’s Berlin Wall again erected – wheelchair users forced underground
The superhuman stupidity of Infraestruturas de Portugal's management has reignited the Berlin Wall conflagration in Olhão which in 2014, divided the city in two by blocking off a pedestrian crossing over the railway line.
Citing ‘safety concerns,’ the crossing was fenced off, with pedestrians including the elderly, incapacitated and mothers with buggies, being forced underground along a narrow footpath alongside a busy road under the railway line – until the company relented and installed a bizarre barrier system and a permanently bored guard.
The idiocy of closing the crossing on ‘safety grounds’ while forcing people along a wholly unsuitable, narrow and steep underpass was not lost on some locals who, night after night removed sections of fencing to allow people to continue to use the above ground pedestrian crossing.
This damage was repaired again and again, then the trackside was dug out to make any crossing by pedestrians a hazardous affair. Locals persisted, while pointing out that not one accident had ever been logged at the crossing as it is so close to the station the trains are crawling along.
Using the pedestrian crossing illegally, for most pedestrians, was better than going underground but today the crossing again has been closed as Infraestruturas de Portugal has decided to not renew a licence for the crossing to remain open.
By now there was meant to be ‘an alternative’ – meaning a widened underground route where at least two wheelchairs could pass each other – but this project is held up as it seems the finest minds at the council have failed to work out how to widen pedestrian part of the underpass and at the same time preserve the artistically important tiling and allow enough space for two lanes of traffic. In truth, this is a tricky one and the permaent impass had been seen by locals as a politically expedient solution.
One design was presented by the council in December 2014 – three long years have passed and still there is no underpass widening project, so the railway company told the council to seal off its crossing to prevent people ‘endangering’ themselves.
For most locals, well used to the idiocies of central and local organs of the State, the barriers to their progress across the railway line have meant agility is needed to climb over or through them.
Those less adept, have been forced back to the dreaded underpass, or again have to abandon their journeys across the city until the railway company understands how ridiculous it has become and reopens the pedestrian crossing over the railway until a suitable alternative has been installed.
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