Lisbon road congestion charges divide election candidates

PROPOSED CONGESTION charges to enter Lisbon are proving a political hot potato in the city council election campaign. The idea for a London style tax, which could cost motorists up to five euros during the week, is hotly opposed by CDS/PP candidate, Maria José Nogueira Pinto, who believes the measure would be easy to introduce, but very unfair.

Charging a tax on anyone wishing to enter the capital, in a bid to reduce the volume of traffic and encourage more commuters to use public transport, is laid down in the electoral manifesto backed by Bloco de Esquerda’s candidate, José Sá Fernandes, and is also accepted by Socialist Party (PS) candidate, Manuel Maria Carrilho. Both the Social Democrats Party (PSD) candidate, Carmona Rodrigues, and CDU candidate, Ruben de Carvalho, have omitted what is likely to be an eventual road toll.

“A percentage of people use their cars to enter Lisbon for work and another part use them for selfish reasons. However, a tax on motorists would be a stupid measure,” said Maria José Nogueira Pinto. The CDS/PP candidate for the city elections said there where still factors that hadn’t been explored, for example building large car parks on the outskirts of the city and instigating park and ride schemes, which have proved successful in British cities such as York, Exeter, Cambridge and Oxford.

“Everyday, 400,000 cars drive into Lisbon and it is necessary to create alternative conditions to encourage people to leave their cars outside.” The candidate also added that the car was still the most economical way the average middle class family could get into the city.

Fernando Seara, President of Sintra Câmara, in an interview with TSF, also rejected a ‘pay as you enter’ scheme for Lisbon.

The other issue is how much Lisbon Câmara would charge vehicles to enter the city. Proposed fees have ranged from as little as one euro to as much as five euros. However, all indications show that the trend for traffic into Lisbon is set to continue rising. Traffic registered entering the Vasco da Gama bridge registered a 3.1 per cent increase in July against the same period in 2004.