Toll prices on five Portuguese motorways – including the Algarve’s A22 – are going to drop 15% on August 1.
The news was confirmed by Portugal’s Infrastructure Minister Pedro Marques.
The reduction will also be implemented on the A4, A23, A24 and A25 highways in the centre/north of the country.
“This decision fulfils an electoral promise that is important for the economy and development of these regions, which face more difficulties due to their distance from the main urban centres,” the minister told TSF radio.
While it may not be the price reduction many hoped for, Marques added that “15% is a significant sum that is prudent and sustainable for public accounts and (infrastructure authority) Infraestruturas de Portugal”.
Additional discounts ranging between 15%-30% will also be available for heavy goods vehicles that use the roads.
The minister is expected to shed more light on the toll price reduction at 11am in Covilhã.
“It’s not enough”
The first reactions to the 15% price reduction have been consensual so far, at least among members of other political parties – “it is not enough”.
João Vasconcelos, Algarve MP for Bloco de Esquerda and leader of anti-toll group CUVI, told the Resident the price reduction does not solve the “real issue” the Algarve faces.
“People will keep using the dangerous EN125. A 15% reduction is not enough to get people off the EN125 and onto the motorway. And with summer now in full force, accidents will only get worse,” he said.
“Our goal to abolish the tolls still stands,” he added.
Vasconcelos also believes the toll reduction took “very long” to implement, and that the current government is not proving to be “all that different” from the previous PSD/CDS-PP administration.
Another reaction to the news came from the Algarve’s PSD MP Cristóvão Norte, who stressed that PS had promised to reduce the tolls by 50%.
“And why? Because they claimed to have a study that showed that the reduction would lead to an increase of usage of the motorway, which would make up for the losses. The study was never made public,” Norte wrote on his Facebook page.
He also said that PCP and BE had agreed that the goal was to abolish the tolls – “but their agreement led to this,” he wrote.
The politician also said that any price reduction that is not “at least a third of the total cost will not be effective”.
His opinions were shared alongside a PS electoral campaign image, which included a “commitment to the Algarve” to “immediately reduce toll prices by 50% on the Via do Infante, eventually making it free”.
“They (PS) asked at the time to share the image. Well then let’s share it,” Norte added.
ACRAL fears came true
Algarve retailers association ACRAL was the first to suggest the government was simply planning a 15% toll price reduction on formerly-free motorways in Portugal (click here)
In late June, ACRAL cited a study by Infraestruturas de Portugal that evaluated the impact of a 15% reduction – a clear indication that the state was considering a smaller price reduction than previously indicated.
“If that is the decision, then we oppose it,” ACRAL president Álvaro Viegas said at the time. “It would mean that a promise to reduce the tolls by 50% would be broken”.
He added that the tolls should be reduced at least by 25% for now and then gradually lowered by 50%, “as promised”.
Viegas said the IP study found that a 35% reduction on formerly-free SCUT roads such as the A22 would still be “beneficial” for the state’s coffers.