One hundred years with out accessibility.
On Saturday July 30th at precisely 11.55am a commemorative train arrived at the Lagos station. This was part of a ceremony to celebrate one hundred years since the arrival of the Algarve regional train service in Lagos.
Onboard the train were local, regional, elected and public officials and journalists, who as they exited the train were greeted by onlookers and by accessibility advocate Constance Houck displaying a sign stating "Cem Anos, Sem Acessibilidade or One Hundred Years Without Accessibility.”
This simple,silent, peaceful, protest, really caught the attention of all of the officials and journalists, in particular President of the Cãmara (County Council) of Lagos, Sr. Hugo Pereira, who seemed visibly moved by the sign.
Homemade leaflets in Portuguese and English were distributed throughout the crowd that stated:
"The Algarve regional train first arrived in Lagos one hundred years ago. To this day the train is still not accessible to people with reduced mobility. Please ask your elected and public officials why?”
The flyers were definitely a conversation starter.
President Hugo then spent a few minutes talking with Constance and Kevin and made a promise to contact Infrastructures Portugal to determine if the plans to make the trains usable by everyone are moving forward.
Speeches were then given at the inauguration of a new sculpture in front of the train station. President Hugo included a commitment to ensure accessibility in his remarks.
Many people in the crowd gave us the thumbs up and asked us for more information.
Just two people and a bit of effort can really make a difference, as the anthropologist Margaret Mead said “ Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
No protest is effective unless there is follow through, please read on to learn what we have been up to.
New Sculpture in front of the Lagos train station 2022.
Accessible Algarve has been writing to various elected officials of all parties, and to agencies for many years on this topic. Finally on Nov 30th 2021 we received a meaningful response from Member of the European Parliament (MEP) representing the Algarve Sr. José Gusmão of the left block (Bloco Esquerda).
Sr. Gusmão agreed to submit a question to the European Commission on our behalf asking that as the electrification of the line is being funded in part with EU money, will it include guarantees of accessibility for people with reduced mobility.
We want to thank Sr. Gusmão and his staff for their assistance and for keeping us informed.
According to the response from the commission some of the funds used for the electrification of the Algarve regional train line are part of cohesion fund 2014-2020 through the operational program COMPETE2020.
“Member States shall take appropriate measures to prevent any discrimination on the grounds of disability during the preparation and implementation of programs, and accessibility for persons with disabilities shall be taken into account throughout the preparation and implementation of programs. According to the Portuguese authorities, the works include some interventions for this purpose, namely in the stations. Such interventions take into account current needs and the requirements of Decree-Law no. with reduced mobility.”
“Portugal is also a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is bound by its obligations, including those of article 9 relating to accessibility in the field of transport.”
“Cohesion policy is implemented under shared management, where Member States are responsible for implementing programs at national level, selecting projects, monitoring implementation and ensuring compliance with applicable legislation (national and EU) – the Commission has a supervisory role as regards implementation. Therefore, we invite the Honorable Members to contact the Portuguese managing authority responsible for the support program for this project.”
We had previously written to Infrastructures Portugal (IP) and received the following response. They have informed us that works have been completed to raise the platforms at some stations to European standards and that tenders have been launched for other stations including Lagos. IP also informed us that Comboios Portugal (CP) has been developing a prototype
"Following your last communication, we inform you that the platforms of the Algarve line have been intervened in order to be equipped with the height defined by European standards, enhancing and facilitating access to trains for people with reduced mobility.”
“On the other hand, CP has been developing prototypes of lifting platforms for application in its rolling stock, namely in electric railcars that can be used on the Algarve Line after electrification.”
This is some good news, however it remains to be seen if all the trains on the regional line will be accessible to everyone.
We are advocating that in addition to the improvements to some of the stations, platforms and ramps promised for some of the new electrical trains, that the entire fleet should be equipped with portable ramps that could be stored onboard the train or at each station. This would ensure access to all passengers at all times, anything less is just not equality.
It is up to all of us to insist that IP and CP do what the law and human dignity requires.
If you can please take two minutes and write a simple message asking that all Algarve regional trains be made accessible to people with reduced mobility,