With a practically full auditorium at the Portuguese Institute of Youth in Coimbra, many residents showed themselves concerned with the possibility of the rail line project destroying homes, especially on the West bank of the Mondego, in the areas or Bencanta, Taveiro and Ribeira de Frades.

Having attended the public discussion session pushed by the Portuguese Environmental Agency, the president of the Union of Parishe of São Martinho do Bispo and Ribeira de Frades, considered one of these axis “destroys the parish of Ribeira de Frades,” an area already ‘cut through’ by the A1, by the Coimbra A31 and by the current railway.

According to the Environmental Impact Study published in June about the track extension between Oiã (Oliveira do Bairro) and Soure, it’s estimated that 35 houses, 37 side rooms and 18 council sheds will be affected by the new railway infrastructure in Coimbra.

“The parish is fated to disappear off the map,” the local representative argued, whose intervention was praised by the majority of people who participated and was backed up by the president of the Union of Parishes of Taveiro, Ameal and Arzila, Jorge Mendes.

Jorge Veloso suggested that the project should opt for a route that passes through agricultural lands instead of through a built-up area, saying there’s corrections that should be made “between Taveiro and Bencanta.”

In response, the vice-president of Infrastructures of Portugal (IP), Carlos Fernandes, assured that, in this phase, studies are being made into “hundreds of kilometres of routes,” with the project not having any “fine level of detail” as of yet.

Least possible impact

“Once the corridor with the least possible impact is chosen, we’ll then work on that route” in a calculated way that avoids unwanted impacts, he explained.

Despite that, the vice-president stressed that any solution would have impacts, but that IP will always have its “primary focus” on reducing as much as possible the number of primary residences affected by the line.

“If we didn’t come to Coimbra, the project would have less impact. It’s when we come close to cities that we have an impact,” Carlos Fernandes noted.

Many citizens associated with environmental movements questioned the impact of the high-speed rail line in the Choupal National Woods and the planned solution of replicating the North Line coming in and out of Coimbra, proposing a high-speed train station on the periphery, such as in Taveiro or Adémia.”

“The line’s duplication is only needed because high-speed rail is coming to Coimbra’s city centre. If high-speed wasn’t coming to the centre, we wouldn’t have half the questions we’ve put forth. We should look for another solution, we should look at Coimbra as a whole, see Taveiro or Adémia as being extensions of Coimbra,” Miguel Dias, of Climação Centro, defended, taking into consideration that there wouldn’t be problems accessing high-speed rail three of four kilometres from the city centre.

In response, Carlos Fernandes doubled down that the objective of high-speed transit “is to bring people to their destination and integrate into other transport networks. There are situations where stations were built outside of the city and the success is limited. On the other hand, for example, high-speed rail came to Bordeaux [France] six years ago and the city’s development is extraordinary, more city is created where it already exists.”

Architect Duarte Miranda argued the high-speed rail project should also be used as an opportunity to give another urban connection back to the land between Taveiro and Bencanta. “It’s a zone crossed by the A31 and the A1. We should take advantage of this project to sew the two sides back together, between North and South, and as they’re going to be building overpasses, we should take the opportunity to extend the connections between the sides so that they’re not divided by the railway,” he suggested.