Mayors demand repeal of former government’s “sneaky toll deals”

Mayors in the Portuguese boroughs of Maia, Gondomar and Valongo are due to meet with the new Transport Secretary this morning (Monday) after a national paper revealed the outgoing government signed controversial toll deals behind their backs for free stretches of vital motorways.

The tolls are due to come into effect next summer on two stretches of the A3 and A4 motorways that have been lifelines to local populations, which now face “isolation” without them.

The deals – which Jornal das Notícias explain were forged by the outgoing PSD-CDS-PP coalition – “went behind the backs of the population”, Mayor of Valongo José Manuel Ribeiro (PS) has told journalists, and as such are “inadmissible”.
Ribeiro’s counterparts in Maia and Gondomar have variously called them “a theft” and “incomprehensible”.

As Maia’s António Bragança Fernandes (PSD) explains, his borough will be completely cut off by the new plans.

“Maia will become an island between motorways,” he said – while Marco Martins (PS) in Gondomar says his municipality’s alternative national roads will not be able to accommodate the resulting extra traffic as drivers seek to avoid paying for roads that used to be free.

The issue is coming to the boil the day before a new debate on the future of the reviled A22 tolls in the Algarve will be heard.

But the A3 and A4 issue is slightly more complicated, explains Económico website.

In the time of the PSD government led by Cavaco Silva 15 years ago, tolls were charged on these stretches – only to be repealed by the incoming PS government of António Guterres.

The last PSD-CDS-PP government decided the potential revenue – as much as €15 million per year – was clearly too good to miss, so sealed an agreement with IP (Infrastuturas de Portugal) without, apparently, passing the details on to the incoming PS government.

Whether the agreement can be overturned is what remains to be seen. According to some news reports it is “irreversible”, which has only added fuel to the mayors’ fire.

“Someone has to assume political responsibility for this,” thundered Ribeiro last week.