by INÊS LOPES [email protected]
An anti-tolls protest on the EN125 in Lagoa on February 3 started under the watchful eye of a large police presence.
Dozens of GNR officers on bikes and cars were at the scene in preparation for a demonstration by the A22 Users’ Commission (Comissão de Utentes da A22) led by João Vasconcelos, the man who has become the face of the fight against tolls in the Algarve.
A small group of protesters, outnumbered by the GNR, arrived just after 5pm in vehicles customised for the occasion, wearing black tops with white letters saying “The Algarve won’t pay” and carrying posters and banners with messages such as “Call for the immediate suspension of tolls”, “Road accidents on EN125 up by 30% since introduction of tolls on A22” and “No to death in the Algarve”.
Protesters, who drove slowly for 30 kilometres along the EN125 towards Boliqueime, were encouraged to speed up by GNR officers, who kept the demonstration under close surveillance, to ensure the safety of drivers and populations in local towns.
Along the way, other protestors joined the slow drive, contributing to serious traffic congestion at rush hour – demonstrating exactly what the protesters say the Algarve can expect in the summer at all times of the day.
Before taking to the road on Friday, João Vasconcelos said: “We are here to express our anger at the arrogance shown by those in power.
“What more proof does the government need to see that tolls on the A22 are a catastrophe for the region’s economy, penalising those who need to work.”
The leader of the anti-tolls group continued by saying unemployment levels in the region had increased drastically as small enterprises face financial difficulties, many even opting to close down.
He also pointed out that the numbers of registered unemployed people at Employment Offices had escalated to 30,000 people in the Algarve.
But, he said, “the real unemployment figures should be around 50,000”.
“The fight will continue and we are glad to now have the support of various Spanish associations whose members have been affected by the A22 tolls,” said João Vasconcelos, adding that other actions opposing the move are already planned for various locations of the Algarve, including on the Guadiana International Bridge and by Faro Airport, in the upcoming months.
As reported in last week’s Algarve Resident, a new cross-border commission against the tolls on the A22 has been created between neighbouring provinces in Spain and Portugal.
Two transport associations, the Spanish FENADISMER and Portugal’s ANTP, have agreed a plan of action in light of the effects that the toll system is having on cross-border trade.
João Vasconcelos, who attended a recent meeting between the two associations, said: “The government cannot continue ignoring the Algarve people. We want to see tolls abolished in the Algarve.”
Call for foreign residents to get involved in anti-tolls fight
Foreign residents wishing to get involved in the demonstrations against the tolls, organised by the A22 Users’ Commission, can contact member Michael Ferrada in English.
Michael is now assisting the commission to help it gain the support of foreign residents in the Algarve.
He can be contacted on 919070032/965334155 or email [email protected].
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