The European Commission has chosen 2021 as the European Year of Rail Transport, thereby reaffirming the goals set in the European Eco-Pact for the transport sector, in which the railways will play a key factor in creating the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. as long as it takes on the role of the backbone of sustainable mobility.
This purpose began with the publication in 2011 of the “White Paper – Roadmap for a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource-efficient transport system”, which gives the train a crucial role in the European transport system supported by a dense network of Railways in all Member States and by 2050 ensure that medium-haul transport of passengers and goods is mainly carried out by rail.
The Ministerial Declaration of Rotterdam 2016 reaffirms the role of rail freight transport in the transport model of the future, and the European Ecopact 2019 takes on the EU’s commitment to tackling climate and environmental problems, for a modern, efficient economy in terms of resource management and competitiveness, with the aim of to achieve no net greenhouse gas emissions and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use.
When we look at the Douro wine region, we are faced with a region of difficult orography in which we can move through the existing road network. Not only is it uncomfortable, it is always time consuming, even when we consider the modern network of main and main wine complementary itineraries that surround the region. However, there are two communication routes along the Douro Valley – the Douro Railway Line and the navigable Douro Canal – which can form the basis of the entire transport system in the area, namely the train, as the river mode is only used for tourism.
The National Investment Program 2030 continues the modernization and electrification of the Douro line as far as Pocinho, which, when powered by efficient electric vehicles, becomes a real structural railroad for access to the whole region and is inextricably linked to the Douro landscape Valley from which the nearby or last mile public road services can radiate, which can also be operated by electric buses, providing an integrated and powered transport system using renewable energies generated in the region itself (wind and water). .
The Douro wine region has been able to withstand the massiveization of tourism and large hotels, and the bet well-made by the market has fallen on small hotels and wine tourism aimed at a kind of inexpensive tourist profile, short stay that does not seek mass tourist destinations and for which the train is one of the Transport solutions is as can be seen in many destinations across Europe. And on the Douro Line, trains crowded with tourists can enjoy the scenery, as can heavy ore trains from Moncorvo, with the peculiarity that in both cases the transport is carried out with clean and renewable energies and, consequently, without cost environmental conditions.
With the reopening of the Pocinho-Barca D’Alva section, integrated into the backbone of the Douro Valley transport system, this is an opportunity to be considered in the context of sustainable mobility for both mobility and accessibility of the region are used for tourist movements throughout the valley and support river tourism, namely as an alternative to the motorway, as the journey on the 63 km that connects these two places takes about 1h15 to 1h30 on the road, compared to the 25 minutes that the train takes .
And with the current standards for the modernization of railways, which includes modern signaling systems, the Douro Line will provide the necessary answer to the expected demands, from a structuring railroad from Porto to Barca D’Alva, including the extension of Salamanca, and many of the myths that were created and spread over the past few decades have been destroyed.
Indeed, a structured transport strategy on the Douro Line is in line with the conclusions of the reports. Comprehensive analysis of the existing cross-border rail connections and missing connections at the EU internal borders as well as report – Promotion of the rail sector through the European Green Deal, published by the European Commission, in which the Douro line was analyzed as one of the 38 most promising missing connections out of a total of 365 cross-border connections Connections was identified.
In this context and taking into account the objectives of the Restoration and Resilience Plan (PRR) at the level of missing links and cross-border connections as well as at the level of sustainable mobility, the bet on the reopening of the 28 km section between Pocinho-Barca D’Alva is an added value for the entire region. In addition, it is a first step towards re-establishing international links with Salamanca, as the governments of the two neighboring countries wish, within the framework of a policy of deepening cross-border relations and based on a sustainable and economical mode of transport.
To sum up, an immediate reactivation of the Pocinho-Barca D’Alva section, as it is not part of the PRR, will be a big step towards making the Douro wine region, one of the most depressed areas in Europe, the first Portuguese region One of the first in Europe to achieve carbon neutrality and still be an important step in motivating the young brothers in the Castile and Leon region to continue this strategy and to extend carbon neutrality to Salamanca.
Transport and communication specialist
The author writes according to the new orthographic convention