Alfa Pendular High Speed Train Service Lisbon-Porto
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Review of "Alfa Pendular High Speed Train Service Lisbon-Porto"
This is not a travelogue on Lisbon and Porto but a review of the Alfa Pendular high speed train service that runs between the two cities. Lisbon and Porto deserve at least a book each, their being two of the most picturesque and interesting cities on the Iberian peninsular.On a simple level Lisbon (Lisboa) and Porto (Oporto) have the same relationship and rivalry as do London and Manchester in the UK. Lisbon is where the money and power of Portugal are centred, whereas Porto has traditionally been an industrial hub. In particular it is the centre of the textile industry just as Manchester was, and also Port wine production, as Manchester certainly has never been. The distance separating them is roughly the same; 350k (210 miles). Their football teams, especially Benfica and Porto FC are by far the most supported in Portugal and the rivalry between the two verges on hysteria.
The Portugal and England comparison stops as abruptly as an Arriva train however, when it comes to 21st century high speed trains between the two major cities. For over ten years there has been a high speed train service linking the two cities known as the Alfa Pendular. It is a sexy looking TGV clone built by Siemens of Germany, so you know it's going to work! Its top speed is 220 kph. This is of course around 125 mph, the speed our Intercity 125 trains rarely achieve. The Alfa does however but not for the whole journey, on average three quarters of it. I know this because each of the six carriages has a LCD display at both ends which show speed, temperature (inside and out), time and status of the service. There are as I said six carriages on each train, one of which is first class and the other five second. The last of those is the smoking carriage.I used to travel on this train every weekend and have never found it to be anything but spotlessly clean on boarding. Second class is very comfortable using seating which resembles leather living room armchairs. Each carriage has sets of two seats on each side of the aisle facing both directions separated by four-seater table arrangements. There are televisions along the aisle roof which show painful Portuguese sitcoms with the odd promotional video for both cities. Headphones are provided. Two sets of toilets at each end are always clean. There is a buffet in the middle of the train although a trolley will come round about every half hour.
First class is very much the same as far as comfort and seating are concerned. There is more legroom. However the main difference is that you get stewardesses, free use of a phone, newspapers, coffee and the children are given complimentary games.The Alfa is a tilting train and so gives a good ride……..as it were! The journey between the two cities varies from 2 hours 20 minutes to 3 hours depending on the stops.
We will begin our journey in Lisbon; probably the most likely for a tourist. If you're doing it the other way, just read backwards.There are two stops in Lisbon. The first and most central, Santa Apollonia, is actually the most difficult to get to having no Metro station. The second, 10 minutes later, is Gare De Oriente which is served by the Metro. I recommend the latter. To get to Santa Apollonia you will have to catch a tram or a taxi.
Tickets must be bought in advance. This can be 10 minutes before, unless it is a rush hour service; 07.00 to 09.00 or 17.00 to 18.00. You will be allotted a specific seat and carriage which is shown on the ticket. You will be asked whether you want a single 'ida' (eeda) or a return 'ida e volta' (eedeevolta). You will also be asked if you want smoking 'fumador' (foomadoor) although I think this is due to be discontinued this year (2007).Once seated after probably having had a brief argument with someone who either can't read or has their ticket upside down, sit back and enjoy the ride. It is a very comfortable train. I often used to get depressed on reaching my destination. This wasn't just because I was visiting my girlfriend!
Main stops on the fastest service are; Santarem-marshy fen like area where rice is grown, Coimbra-the Oxbridge of Portugal and very beautiful, Aveiro-known as the Venice of Portugal just because it has a few canals! The train also passes through Fatima, Portugal's Lourdes but don't blink or you'll miss it!It's a smooth ride and there's plenty to see along the way, unless you buy wine from the trolley and crash out as I usually do.
The train arrives at Porto Campanha, which is not central. To get to the centre of Porto you will have to take a ten minute train ride Porto Sao Bento or a taxi. Taxis are very cheap by our standards and the trip to the centre shouldn't be more than 10 euros (£6.50).This really is a cheap and excellent service and puts our high speed trains to shame. The Portuguese have had this high speed tilting train for over ten years and we are still running the poor old rusting125s.
Ticket prices vary according to promotions, days and hours of travel. Roughly speaking a single will be around 24 euros (£16.00) and a return 40 euros (£26.00).Departures from Lisbon are every five minutes to the hour from 05.55 to 20.55.
Departures from Porto are every fifteen minutes past the hour from 07.15 to 21.15.Sunday service; forget the two earliest from both ends.
Product Information : Alfa Pendular High Speed Train Service Lisbon-Porto
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Listed on Ciao since: 15/01/2007