A London style ‘congestion charge’ – a tax payable by drivers if they enter a city within peak hours – could soon be in place in Lisbon. The government is currently considering a 40 page proposal document entitled, Programme to Reduce Portugal’s Dependency on Petrol (Programa de Actuação para reduzir a dependência de Portugal face ao Petróleo), in which a total of 100 measures are outlined. The Minister’s Council has already approved the plan and it now remains to be seen if it will meet with the approval of parliament.
If the programme is approved, vehicles entering Lisbon will be subject to a ‘toll’ aimed at encouraging between 15 and 20 per cent more people to use public transport over the next five years.
The Secretary of State for Transport, Jorge Borrego, says the proposal is “a sensible and reasonable option”, but underlined the fact that “nothing would be put into action against the will of the Lisbon Câmara”. This seems unlikely as Câmara President, Carmona Rodrigues, has already said he will support the idea if the money generated from the charge is used to improve public transport in the city.According to Borrego, before congestion charges are introduced, “other measures should be taken, such as improving parking facilities at the entrances to cities and increasing available public transport”. In addition, the current ‘Social Passes’ system, which offers government subsidised travel passes to those on low incomes and the elderly, is to be reformulated in Spring 2005.
Borrego believes that the London congestion charge system has proved to be “efficient” and says that the revenue generated from the charge will be ploughed back into modernising public transport services. The plan proposes a charge of 7.35 euros, payable when cars enter Lisbon between 7am and 6.30pm and drive within the 21sq km zone.
Parking problem tackled head-on
Ministers hope that encouraging the use of public transport and applying a congestion charge will have a significant effect on parking in the major cities. It has been recently quoted that on average around 35 per cent of cars in Lisbon are illegally parked during the day and 30 per cent at night. In order to combat this crime, the government also plans to increase the price of parking, raise the penalties for illegal parking and increase the clamping and towing of badly parked vehicles.
The plan has met with a mixed reaction. Fernando Ruas, the President of the Associação Nacional de Municípios (ANM), said that in view of the increasing number of vehicles in the principal cities, pollution and disorderly parking, the charge could be “just the tool to put things in order”. He pointed to London, where there was a 30 per cent drop in traffic in the first year of the congestion zone being introduced. However, environmental association, Quercus, says the government is “missing the point”. Spokesman, Franciso Ferreira, stressed that it was more important to place parking meters throughout the city, so that free parking is abolished.
Incentives for saving energy
The Programme to Reduce Portugal’s Dependency on Petrol predicts that Portugal will see a 20 per cent reduction in its use of petrol by the year 2010 and reduce its energy bill by 15 per cent. Some of the most important points are below:
Companies who issue social passes for public transport to their employees will receive tax incentives.
The incentive for scrapping used cars (1,000 euros towards the purchase of a new car) will be continued beyond 2005.
Tax incentives to be given for the purchasing and installation of solar panels for heating water.
Creation and improvement of incentive based tariffs to reduce the energy consumption of families.