by INÊS LOPES [email protected]
A new petition to suspend tolls on the A22 has been launched by the A22 Users’ Commission, which hopes to collect “tens of thousands” of signatures.
A previous petition, started in January last year and which had 14,000 signatures, was rejected in Parliament on October 28, with the PS, PSD and PP political parties voting against it.
At the time of going to press on Wednesday, the latest petition Petição pela suspensão imediata das portagens na A22/Via Infante de Sagres (www.peticaopublica.com/?pi=P2011N18627) had around 1,600 signatures and it is hoped the figure will surpass the previous one.
Another attempt by the anti-tolls commission to attract support from the public will be an open meeting on January 14 at Vale da Venda restaurant, near Faro.
“The assembly is open to anyone opposing the tolls and provides an opportunity to discuss new ways of continuing the fight,” said a spokesman for the commission.
João Vasconcelos from the commission said the fight would get “tougher” and appealed to all citizens to join them and help create a stronger group to “abolish the tolls”.
“Traffic chaos on the EN125 is plain for all to see, while the A22 is practically a deserted road, with traffic down by more than 60%,” he said, adding that this is partly due to the fact that the Spanish are “boycotting” the Algarve in favour of other destinations.
The commission condemned the position taken by Algarve MPs representing the PSD, CDS/PP and PS parties to vote in favour of tolls in a recent parliamentary evaluation of the decree-law governing toll charges.
However, the MPs declared that a request for suspension of the tolls could be made should road safety on the EN125 be compromised as a result.
An injunction filed by the protest group Portagens na A22 Não (No tolls on the A22) at the fiscal court of Loulé is still awaiting a verdict.
Meanwhile, further cases of vandalism against the A22 tolls system were reported late in December. In the early hours of December 27, vandals set alight optic fibre cables between Olhão and Tavira while in the afternoon the GNR found a container with fuel between Algoz and Guia. Criminals fled the scene.
Group created to attract Spanish
Business owners in Vila Real de Santo António, who rely heavily on Spanish customers, say they have registered a loss in trade of 80% due to the tolls.
In a bid to lure back Spanish shoppers from the neighbouring Andalucian region, Vila Real de Santo António, Castro Marim and Alcoutim joined forces and set up a group to inform customers that they do not need to pay tolls to enter their council areas.
Spanish nationals are informed by members of the group, awaiting them as they enter Portugal via the Guadiana Bridge, that they can use two exits on the A22 (Castro Marim/VRSA and Altura/Monte Gordo) without incurring any charges.
A trilingual leaflet (Portuguese, Spanish and English) with the same information is also being handed out to visitors by the group.