By EMMA BERTENSHAW [email protected]
A late rush for toll payment transponders this week saw many post offices run out of the devices that residents with Portuguese registered cars need to make pre-payments.
It appears that Lagos, Praia da Luz, Portimão, Monchique and Carvoeiro CTT post offices had sold out – and that Monchique apparently had just two devices available to cover the council area’s entire population.
However, readers of the Algarve Resident Facebook page had little sympathy for people who missed out in the last-minute rush.
“We bought ours back in March or April through Via Verde for both our cars. It was obvious the tolls were going to come in sooner or later. As usual, everyone leaves it to the last few days and then complains that they are in short supply! It’s not as if we didn’t know this was coming!” said one contributor.
Another said: “I can’t understand why people have waited so long before buying their devices. And don’t forget once you have the device you then need to apply for Positive Discrimination.”
The week also saw the release, finally, of the exact charges to use the Algarve’s A22 and, in northern Portugal, the Beira Interior A23, Beira Norte A24 and Beira Litoral/ Beira Alta A25.
But it seems there are still more questions than answers and scepticism about its success in generating income instead of driving it away.
The news that the Algarveans are not being charged as much as some of their northern counterparts has not done much to abate the confusion and frustration some people are experiencing with the new system.
A journey along the entire length of the motorway will cost €11.60 for a small car and a trip from Odiáxere to Mexilhoeira will cost the same type of car €1. The average rate per kilometre costs nine cents. But drivers should note the rates announced are for 2011 only. 2012 rates have not yet been released.
Meanwhile, in an effort to clarify the situation for residents and visitors alike, Via Verde, the company responsible for running the electronic tolls system, is due to hold a press conference today (Friday) in Faro.
The Algarve Resident will be there and all details elicited from the company will be posted on our website as soon as they become available.
Paulo Beja of Europacar, who hires out anything between 1,000 and 4,000 cars in the Algarve region, said: “We are going to advise our clients before they take the car and when they sign the contract that they now have to pay for the toll charges as well.
“They can pay at the post office or pay shops like others have been advised to do. We have experienced the same situation with our concessions in the north of Portugal last year. “
However, he foresees problems when customers come to leave the country.
“It might be that a customer does not pay their final journey, because they are on the way to the airport and may not have the time,” said Paulo Beja.
“In that case, we have been advised to send customer contact details to the appropriate authorities to chase the payments.”
While there are places to pay at Faro airport post office and pay shops, they may not always be open when a tourist is leaving.
And not everyone has received the same information about what people can do at the airport.
The Algarve Resident called passenger information services at Faro airport, where staff were unaware whether visitors could pay for the toll fees there.
However, a spokesman for Auriga Crown car hire was apparently more informed and said that it is possible for clients to pay at the end of their journey in the airport post office.
Meanwhile, protest group Portagens na A22 Não (No tolls on the A22) has filed an injunction at the fiscal court of Loulé against the decree-law passed by the government last week.
They also arranged for a major demonstration to be held in Faro on Wednesday outside Forum Algarve to highlight the “symbolic burial of the economic and social development of the Algarve with the introduction of tolls on the Via do Infante”.
Members have, in particular, highlighted the major effect that the tolls may have on tourism and business links with Spain.
The National Federation of Transport Associations of Spain (FENADISMER) say that Spanish drivers are being discriminated against for using the A22 as they will not be able to apply for the exemptions.
They claim that the tolls will affect more than 22,000 cars and trucks a day passing through the Spanish border and endangering small and local businesses that use it.
For more information about tolls in the Algarve, please visit the following websites:
www.viaverde.pt – partly in English
www.estradas.pt – in Portuguese only
www.ctt.pt – English version under construction at the time of going to press.
Editor’s note: Although we have found the above mentioned websites very informative and user-friendly, the majority do not provide enough information in the English language. The CTT website includes a very useful guide to the new electronic tolls system, including what drivers of foreign plated vehicles need to do (go to ‘Serviços Financeiros, then ‘Portagens’) but this is only available in Portuguese.