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Police patrols on the deserted A22

By INÊS LOPES [email protected]

Recent acts of violence against toll gate structures resulting in a road maintenance employee being injured have led to round-the-clock police surveillance of the A22.

Following two incidents in the space of 40 hours last week in which two toll gates, one in Boliqueime and the other in Guia, were attacked by protestors using fire arms, leading to a Euroscut employee being shot at and sustaining injuries, the government ordered 24 hour police patrols of the A22 on Tuesday, December 12.

But this was not enough to deter vandals who last Friday at around 9pm set fire to a communications station along the A22 in the Boliqueime area, destroying several optic fibre cables. Toll recording equipment was, however, not affected by the incident.

Communication stations on the A22 have since been seal welded to prevent further attacks.

Polícia Judiciária are investigating the incidents and comparison of shell casings collected on the two first targeted sites suggest that both attacks were carried out by the same individuals.

However, further evidence is needed to lead police to the culprits.

The deployment of GNR officers to the A22, following instructions from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, has been met with criticism by the Independent GNR Association ASPIG, who says vital proximity police units are being removed from the streets.

Police are also investigating a spate of licence plate robberies since tolls were introduced on December 8, raising suspicion that they are being used to avoid toll charges, while Finanças offices across Portugal have hundreds of staff processing “thousands and thousands” of fines for non-payment of tolls, said an employee.

Meanwhile, the Algarve Resident drove along sections of the A22 this week and can confirm a drastic reduction in traffic, with a time distance between cars of 40 seconds.

On the other hand, traffic on sections of the EN125, also known as ‘the road of death’ due to a high incidence of accidents, has trebled with drivers stuck in bumper to bumper jams in areas such as Faro, Boliqueime, Albufeira and Lagos.

Our journalists have driven on the EN125 from Lagos and Albufeira to Lagoa during peak morning hours to find they need to allow for an extra 20 to 30 minutes on the road.

Last week, the former minister of public works João Cravinho accused the government of overlooking the Algarve situation and failing to find suitable alternatives to the A22.

Speaking to TV channel TVI, he said: “The EN125 is a very dangerous road and our government failed to prepare it in time for the tolls. It is responsible for these recent acts of violence on the A22.”

Redevelopment works on the Algarve’s EN125 road should be finished by the second half of 2013, three years behind schedule.

Meanwhile, confusion still reigns over the payment options for visitors to the Algarve to be able to use the A22.

Emails from readers this week showed that clear information about toll payment options was still not forthcoming from the entities responsible for managing the tolls system.

Armando Santana, president of the Association of Rent-a-Car in the Algarve (ARA) told the Algarve Resident that calls from confused customers were continuous and that his team was having difficulty explaining the system.

English-speaking residents and visitors are advised to contact the Via Verde hotline on 707 500 900, where an employee will be able to assist them in English.

Those finding it difficult to locate a transponder for their car at CTT post offices should also try at the Via Verde stores based in Portimão (temporary), Faro and Tavira (temporary), or at MSCar in Faro and Portimão and ACP, the Automobile Club of Portugal, with an office in Faro.

Owners of foreign registered vehicles have a variety of payment options available, dependent on the usage of the vehicle, i.e. an occasional short stay, frequent stays or a permanent stay. However, post-payment is not available to them.

For more information, please visit (available in English).