Drivers turn away from former SCUTs

A decline of 609,750 vehicles was registered at the network of seven former SCUT highways in the second quarter of 2013, according to a study published by the Institute for Mobility and Transportation (IMT).

This represents a daily decrease of 6,776 vehicles for the months of April, May and June, and a 7.7% drop in the accumulated daily average since the same period last year.

The seven highways – Algarve, Beira Interior, Beiras Litoral e Alta, Interior Norte, Costa da Prata, Grande Porto and Norte Litoral – were originally classified as SCUT (the acronym means Sem Custo para os Utilizadores: “No Cost to Users”) but were tolled in 2010 and 2011.

In the second quarter of 2012, an average of 87,806 vehicles used the network daily. This number dropped to 81,030 between April and June this year.

The study also reveals that other concessionaires, such as Brisa and Lusoponte, also recorded less traffic, though on a smaller scale.

Brisa, which holds the concession for 10 highways including the busy A1 (North) and A2 (South), saw 600 vehicles less on its roads, with an average daily circulation of 17,903 vehicles between April and June this year against an average of 18,503 during the same period in 2012.

Lusoponte, which manages the 25 de Abril and Vasco da Gama bridges, experienced less fluctuation, with an average loss in daily circulation of 180 vehicles.

Despite the decrease in traffic, revenue collected from tolls during the first quarter of 2013 totalled €131.2 million, a growth of 12% over the same period last year.

The IMT report also notes that in the first six months of 2013 revenue obtained from the ex-SCUT highways and the Greater Lisbon and North concessions alone increased by 9% to €122.3 million compared with €112.1 million collected last year.

Estradas de Portugal, the national roads authority, hopes to obtain €270 million from toll revenue by the end of this year.

In May this year, a bulletin issued by deputy minister of regional development, Miguel Poiares Maduro, pointed out the fact that renegotiation of the contracts with Ascendi, Norscut and Scutvias, as part of public-private partnerships, will allow the State to reduce its contributions this year by as much as €259 million.

The three concessionaires that have reached a preliminary agreement with the government operate seven highway concessions: Grande Porto, Costa da Prata, Beiras Litoral e Alta, Norte and Grande Lisboa (Ascendi), Interior Norte (Norscut) and Beira Interior (Scutvias).

In the case of Scutvias, the agreement reached with the government involves the transfer of traffic risk and toll charge to the concessionaire. The other concessionaires will receive compensation from the State as a result of a reduction in the volume of traffic using their highways.

Meanwhile, the Government is still trying to reach an agreement with Euroscut, the ex-SCUT company responsible for running the tolls on the Norte Litoral and Algarve highways and which is currently not included in contract renegotiations.