by EMMA BERTENSHAW [email protected]
A new tolls payment system for visitors renting cars in the Algarve is expected to be introduced this month.
It had been thought that the rental companies would need to apply for transponders in the same way as private motorists.
This could have made payments hard to confirm, potentially leading to situations where customers would have to be chased for payments after they had left the country as the automated system does not have any staffed toll lanes.
However, the government is now planning a new system specifically for the rental car market.
They would pay a fee upfront (for a six-month permit) to allow all their cars to use the A22.The rental company will then charge customers a fixed toll fee along with the regular hire fees.
Armando Santana, president of ARA, Association for Rent-a-car companies in the Algarve, told the Algarve Resident this week: “We have been informed of the plans but so far they have not been signed and are still not in operation. At the moment, we are still waiting and it is not ideal for our customers.”
ARA say that their customers are still required to pay for their toll fees using the post office until the new system is in place.
However, this has been causing problems as the charges are processed only 48 hours after the car has passed the cameras and, by that time, some visitors have already returned home, leaving unpaid charges and the rental companies and road operators left to chase the unpaid fees.
When the new system is ready, customers will need to provide credit card details when they hire the car and sign a contract linked to the tolls system. Once the customer has returned the car, the payments for the toll charges will be taken from the account linked to the credit card.
Avis Portugal, meanwhile, has come up with its own solution following the number of concerns raised by tourists.
They will fit a device at the beginning of the rental contract which will then be activated at the cost of €1.50 per day. Tolls will be debited following the customer’s use of the roads where tolls are in place and they will be able to read the details of their charges approximately 15 days after their final trip.
This system will be used across the entire Portuguese fleet of Avis cars from the beginning of February and will be called Avis eToll. There is information on their website in Portuguese language (www.avis.com.pt/eToll)
10 free trips per calendar month
Regular users (who are also registered residents) of the A22 who have a transponder fitted to their car are able to claim 10 free journeys per calendar month.
Many readers have contacted the Algarve Resident for clarification on what constitutes a journey.
A spokesman for Via Livre (www.vialivre.pt), which operates the toll system, said: “Each ‘free’ journey applies from the moment your journey starts on the A22 motorway to the moment you exit. So, regardless of how far you travel along the A22, this will be counted as one free journey from entrance to exit. These are applied per calendar month.”
Cross-border commission created against tolls
A new cross-border commission against the tolls on the A22 has been created between neighbouring provinces in Spain and Portugal.
Two transport associations representing carriers from both countries met on January 25 in Madrid where they agreed a plan of action.
Another meeting has been arranged for today (Friday) at Ayamonte council to which mayors from Loulé, Faro, Tavira, Aljustrel and Grândola have been invited.
João Vasconcelos of the Users Committee for the A22 will also be present as well as several entrepreneurs from Ayamonte where the meeting is to take place.
FENADISMER (The National Federation of Associations of Carriers of Spain (www.fenadismer.es) and Portugal’s ANTP, National Association of Portuguese Transporters (www.antp.pt) are behind this new action in light of the effects that the toll system is having on cross-border trade.
Estradas de Portugal (EP), Roads of Portugal, (www.estradasdeportugal.pt) has released figures for December 2011, which revealed that traffic on the A22 is down by at least 48% on the same month in 2010.
As the system has not been in place very long, EP reported that it is too soon to draw conclusions on the lasting effects that the tolls may have but it is clear that some users feel strongly enough to contest that it has already been detrimental to business.
The meeting in Ayamonte will be the first meeting of a new Comissão for the Suppression of the Tolls on the A22.
Meanwhile, the Via Verde website reported that as they have had very few visitors or calls to their two pop-up shops in Tavira and Portimão, created to help with demand for devices and information, these will close until February 10. Customers can still get information using the website as before (www.viaverde.pt).
The Via do Infante “Comissão de Utentes” (A22 Users Commission) is organising a slow drive public show of protest today (Friday) against the tolls.
A spokesman told the Algarve Resident: “As a consequence of the decisions reached in the assembly of the Utentes da Via Infante, which took place one week ago, in Faro, the slow drive horn-honking protest will take place on the EN 125, starting at Lagoa (next to the Fatacil Expo), at 5pm.”
The protest is intended to mark the “ re-start of the fight against the introduction of the tolls on the Via do Infante – with the intention of demanding their immediate suspension”.
The Comissão de Utentes intends to continue their protest with other similar events in the coming months.
They are joined in their actions by Spanish neighbours from over the border at Ayamonte and similar places which have been affected by the new tolls.
One of the main points that the Commissão makes is the dangers posed by congested traffic on the EN125 since the tolls have been in place.
“There have been many accidents on the EN 125 and unfortunately, with some confirmed deaths,” said the spokesman.
The Comissão will be joining Juan Antonio Millán Jaldón, General Secretary for FENADISMER who invited them to join him at the Ist cross-border Hispanic-Luso meeting in Ayamonte, where a new Spanish and Portuguese commission is planned to be constituted.
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