Minister admits Algarve would be better off without A22 tolls

Anti-toll groups have been calling for the tolls to be scrapped ever since they were implemented in 2011

Portugal’s Minister of Territorial Cohesion has admitted in Parliament that the Algarve would be better off without tolls on the region’s A22 motorway (also known as Via do Infante).

Ana Abrunhosa’s admission came during a hearing held today at the Commission of Public Administration, Land Planning and Local Power, reports Lusa news agency.

Anti-toll groups have been denouncing the negative effects of motorway tolls ever since they were introduced on the previously free-for-users SCUTS. But whether the minister’s latest admission will lead to any concrete results remains to be seen.

Abrunhosa did vow that the government is committed to “continuing to reduce toll prices” on motorways, specifically the A22, having even said that the “best solution”  would be to scrap tolls entirely.

As the minister explained (and as Algarve residents know far too well), the only alternative to the A22 is the EN125 – a road that has never proven to be a true alternative to a motorway. It mostly only has one lane in each direction and frequently passes right through the heart of several towns, leading to huge bottlenecks especially at rush hour.

Making matters worse is that the eastern section of the road between Olhão and Vila Real de Santo António has been needing urgent renovations for years, yet the works are continuously delayed.

Another issue highlighted by the minister is that paying the tolls is anything but intuitive.

The Via Verde website explains it this way: “If your vehicle has a Portuguese plate number you can pay tolls through the following systems: Via Verde Portugal, CTT’s post-payment system, Satelise or Paytolls. If your vehicle does not have a Portuguese plate number you can pay tolls through the following systems: a transponder issued by Via Verde Portugal, Tollcard, Easy Toll, Paytolls or other prepayment methods according to the type of trip you make.”

What those in charge of the motorway payment system seem to forget is that tourists on holiday in the Algarve do not want to go through the hassle of figuring this system out, and many (knowingly or unknowingly) simply do not pay. This, in turn, makes it incredibly difficult for the tolls to be charged.

While this issue will likely remain a hot topic, for now, however, a top government representative has finally gone on record to say that the A22 motorway tolls are not “the solution” the Algarve needs.

By Michael Bruxo

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