"For decades, successive governments have cut investment in railways and invested in cars. Fortunately we now have a government that is again investing in the railway, we have to assume things as they are", he said.

"We arrived at this point decades late, but finally the train is on the rails and it is also important for us to show the country that the railway is a national investment and that it is under way, not in the plans or only in the announcements, it is already on the ground", he added.

Pedro Nuno Santos was speaking to journalists after the signing of the agreement for the construction of the new stretch of railway between Alandroal (Évora) and Elvas (Portalegre), a project that will cost more than €130 million, within the International Southern Corridor.

The minister, who spoke in Elvas, also stressed that the future involves public transport, with the railway playing a prominent role in this area.

"Everyone has realised, probably too late in Portugal, that the future is public transport, is rail transport, heavy or light and therefore, regardless of everyone’s ability to use or have their car, we will only be able to unite the country, bring the country closer, integrate it into the Iberian economy and connect it to Europe through the railway," he said.

"The railway is the means of transport of the future, not the means of transport of the past," he added.

In addition to the purchase of new trains, including 22 by 2023, he told journalists that there are several compositions that are side-lined and will be recovered by the incumbent train operator CP.

"It is difficult to say the number because the trains are variable, they are not fixed. That is: there are more than 70 carriages, railcars, locomotives, more than 70 units that will be recovered, some have already started," he said.

According to the governor, this action could allow the recovery of "about 20 trains", with different combinations and with different rolling stock.

"We wait well before 2023 to see them running, I hope, by 2020, to see some already running," he added.

The new 38.5-kilometre rail section between Alandroal and Elvas (connection to the East Line) is part of the future International Southern Corridor, developed as part of the 2020 Railway Programme.

The project represents an investment of €130.5 million, has a 28-month execution period and was contracted to the Sacyr Somague, S.A. / Sacyr Infraestruturas, S.A. consortium.

The new Évora Line will have a total extension of about 100 kilometres, 80 of which will be new construction.

The section includes 52 overpasses and underpasses, 29 bridges and railway viaducts and three technical stations.

The future line between Évora and Elvas represents an investment of around €500 million and involves by European funds.