• Portugal cuts road projects after economists say they don’t help the economy

    Portugal has announced it is postponing construction of five major roads totalling nearly 1000 kilometres. The reason given is to cut expenditure from the national budget, but the relevant minister says there is a need to rethink the country’s transport network on a multi-modal basis.

    The decision was announced by the minister of public works António Mendonça, and signifcantly the announcement was made to a leading association of economists. Last autumn, a group of 28 leading Portuguese economists called for a shift in thinking away from transport infrastructure investments, after noting that the decade that followed massive transport investment in the 1990s was the worst for nearly a century.

    Mendonça, an economist who has been in charge of transport since September’s elections, said the tenders for building the five new roads would be ‘suspended for an indeterminate amount of time’, adding: ‘Obviously we are facing fnancial restrictions, but it’s not just about that – we need to rationalise and make more effective our transport system, as well as integrating our road system with investments planned in other modes of transport.’

    As part of the shake-up of transport spending, Mendonça announced that a number of shadow-tolled roads (where the government pays the bill for road users to the private operator) will have real tolls, and he confrmed the government’s intention to continue with major investment in high-speed rail and the continuation of discussions on a possible new airport for Lisbon.