"The Board here decided in 2017 to create a nucleus entirely dedicated to foster Innovation in the Lisbon Metro. Behind that innovation is the determination to lay the foundations of a permanent culture of innovation and discovery."
The Lisbon Metro, or Metropolitano de Lisboa, is a network that it’s fair to say hasn’t had the exposure on SmartRail World that has perhaps been afforded to other metro networks. So it’s great that we can help redress the balance and feature the president of Portugal's first metro network, Vitor Domingues dos Santos, for the latest in its interview series, 5 Minutes With…
Vitor speaks to Dave Songer ahead of his talk this month at SmartMetro in Paris – where he’ll cover how to accelerate rail transformation to keep pace with changing 21st century demands – about the work that is being carried out to improve the Lisbon Metro, the future as he sees it for MaaS and where in the world he thinks hosts the best rail journey.
Dave Songer (DS): Thanks so much for joining us, Vitor. Can we begin with a description of the Metropolitano de Lisboa network?
Vitor Domingues dos Santos (VDdS): Yes, of course, Metropolitano de Lisboa was inaugurated on December 29, 1959, with a Y-shaped line with 11 stations. Today, the network stretches 45km and across 56 stations, six of which connect to other transport modes. Our rolling stock fleet has 333 cars and we carry around half a million passengers each day. In 2017 we carried 162 million passengers, a number which we believe will grow about 4% in 2018.
DS: That's a good rate of growth. Are there any recent developments taking place on the network?
(VDdS): There are – in terms of infrastructure, we began the extension of the platform of Arroios station – this will allow six-car train operation and an increase of the system’s supply capacity. We also began the refurbishment and modernisation of the stations: Anjos, Intendente, Areeiro, Colégio Militar and Praça de Espanha, involving lighting, cleaning, painting, equipment upgrade, signage, and also saw us install lifts in Areeiro and Colégio Militar. In the project stage is also the expansion that will connect the Green and Yellow lines in a circle line adding two new stations: Estrela and Santos.
We have also started projects for changes in the signalling system; purchase of rolling stock and revision of a large number of systems and components that will contribute to improving our service provision, all of which will make a significant impact on mobility in the city.
DS: You’ve been with Metropolitano de Lisboa for more than a year and a half, what do enjoy most about working there?
(VDdS): Sometimes I ask myself how it was possible to maintain the day-to-day operations of the Lisbon Metro in such hard conditions, with so many financial restrictions. It is a fantastic company, with a group of people that have accomplished good progress in very difficult conditions. Having said that, my work with the different managing teams began to, somehow, rebuild the company and started to solve the main problems that existed in maintenance and workshops. It also enabled us to plan the scope of the company and to redirect all activities towards our customers – after all, the passengers are the main reason for our work.
DS: What does your role of executive president entail?
(VDdS): That is not an easy question to answer taking into account the various departments, directions, subjects, problems, projects and so on. But, in a few words: it’s to get things done!
DS: How has the transport industry changed since 1999, when you began working at Cintra, the transport infrastructure company?
(VDdS): The main question is the great changes in the mobility paradigm, namely those related to city centre access or commuting patterns between home and work. Today, no one defends the development of new highways to access cities. Concepts such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS) were unthinkable just 10 years ago but now it is the future.
DS: Where do you think passengers will see the biggest change to their journey in the future?
(VDdS): I believe that will come in ticketing, where there will be the target of the greatest technological advances. That is why the Board here decided in 2017 to create a nucleus entirely dedicated to foster Innovation in the Lisbon Metro. Behind that innovation is the determination to lay the foundations of a permanent culture of innovation and discovery; of new solutions and products, especially in the area of public service provision.
One of the major challenges for Metropolitano de Lisboa – and for all Lisbon transport operators – is to make significant changes to the ticketing model, adapting it to the new realities of today, namely those referred to as MaaS. The current ticketing models are today the object of a wide range of new solutions, for instance the use of smartphones. However, it is still necessary to make qualitative technological leaps for the provision of more facilities and for the creation of fair, simple and comprehensive models for all users. This is the great innovation front which all transport operators are currently facing.
DS: What advice would you offer someone looking to begin a career in the rail industry?
(VDdS): Accept the challenge! It’s a fantastic world, with different activities and the opportunity to deal with different subjects and problems.
DS: You’re due to speak at SmartMetro later in the year – what do you plan to speak about?
(VDdS): I’m very much looking forward to the show in Paris, where I will be running through a presentation of the latest developments on our network. We’re very proud of the work we’re doing and it will be good to share it with everyone.
DS: Where in the world is your favourite rail journey?
(VDdS): That would have to be in Portugal: the rail journey between Oporto and the border of Spain, near the Douro River. If you ever go there you’ll understand why, as it’s absolutely beautiful.
SmartMetro is taking place on 29th-31st October at Le Méridien Etoile in Paris. To attend the event that is the global meeting place for senior metro, tram, and light rail technology experts, visit the show website.
If you enjoyed this interview with Vitor, why not check out the last edition with Val Scinteie, transportation business development manager at Kontron.