Covid-19: Government says “it is not feasible” to comply with social distance on trains

The Minister of Infrastructure said today that “it is not feasible” to comply with the social distance in the trains due to the covid-19 pandemic, expressing concern about the loss of 12 million euros per month at CP-Comboios de Portugal.

In a parliamentary hearing at the Economy, Innovation, Public Works and Housing commission, in the Assembly of the Republic, in Lisbon, the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing, Pedro Nuno Santos, said that the CP recorded, at the beginning of the pandemic in Portugal, losses of 22 million euros per month, adding that at the moment, with 100% of the offer available, since May 4, as part of the beginning of the deflation, “it is losing 12 million euros per month”.

“It is not because the capacity is restricted to 2/3, it is due to lack of demand”, said the government official, considering that it is a serious problem that, in addition to the risk of infection by covid-19, affects the financial health of CP.

Noting that Portugal is one of the few European countries that have a restricted capacity in public transport, Pedro Nuno Santos proposed a debate on the measure.

Accused by CDS-PP deputy João Gonçalves Pereira of being in a “state of denial with the country” when he denies overcrowding of trains in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (AML), the Minister of Infrastructure responded with “objective data” about the average capacity in the peak hours, indicating that there is a record of 35% of maximum capacity between Sintra – Alverca, 26% between Sintra – Rossio, 22% between Azambuja – Lisboa Santa Apolónia, 26% between Azambuja – Alcântara and 13% between Cascais – Cais do Sodré .

“It doesn't mean that, afterwards, we don't have some trains that are currently around 2/3, and we have some trains in that situation, and this is obviously a matter of concern, considering that we are talking about limiting the capacity, ”said the governor who oversees the CP company, warning that, as people return to work, there will be more pressure on public transport.

Before the covid-19 pandemic, trains on the Sintra Line used to run “at 160% capacity”, recalled Pedro Nuno Santos, explaining that “the problem on the Sintra Line, unfortunately, is many years old”, and considering that the responsibility must be shared between the PS Government and the previous PSD and CDS-PP Government.

“All the trains available, all the offer we had for AML is circulating and is in circulation losing money, in fact all transport operators are losing money”, declared the minister, adding that there are limitations in infrastructure and material current assets that prevent the increase in supply on the Sintra Line, where there has been greater demand.

Ensuring that the overwhelming majority of trains comply with a maximum capacity of 2/3, while recognizing that “this does not mean that people do not feel that they are in a crowded environment”, the minister explained that the analysis of overcrowding situations “is more complex than looking at a photograph ”.

“We were unable to reach a social distance of two meters on a train, it is not possible. We had the train carrying very few people, this is not viable from the point of view of the CP and it is not viable from the point of view of the needs of the populations, it is not possible to do that, that is why this is such a delicate issue ”, maintained Pedro Nuno Santos, expressing openness to receive all suggestions to solve this “which is a really difficult problem”.

Among the 2,000 workers of CP who operate inside the trains, there are three cases of covid-19 infection, the official said, indicating that there is no case of infection among the 700 workers of external cleaning companies.

“I am not saying that there is no risk of transmission on the train, I am trying to put the issue in perspective, with objective information”, stressed the Minister of Infrastructure, highlighting the reinforcement of the cleaning and hygiene of the trains, which are ensured daily and, when possible , more than once a day.

Regarding the possible reinforcement of trains at AML, Pedro Nuno Santos said that CP and Infraestruturas de Portugal are studying the change of schedules, so that it is possible to “increase marginally the capacity on the Sintra Line”, work that must be completed in September, because it interferes with the schedules of the entire national railway network.

Portugal accounts for at least 1,576 deaths associated with covid-19 in 42,141 confirmed cases of infection, according to the latest bulletin from the Directorate-General for Health (DGS).

SSM // MLS

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