Portugal’s Socialist party (PS) has rejected a series of proposals to either scrap or temporarily suspend the Algarve’s A22 motorway tolls, saying that the country simply cannot “afford to do so”.
It’s the seemingly never-ending debate that once again had MPs at odds in Parliament last week (March 30).
While left-wing parties PCP, Bloco de Esquerda and Os Verdes want the tolls abolished altogether, the CDS-PP and PSD say that they should be suspended in areas where the only alternative – the infamous EN125 – is undergoing renovations.
But ruling Socialists won’t budge, stressing that “Portugal does not have the economic or financial conditions to be toll-free”.
“Making the A22 toll-free was not a promise PS made for this term,” said MP António Eusébio.
The only option is to implement “small price reductions” over the next few years.
Opposition MPs are not impressed. Hélder Amaral of the CDS-PP accused António Costa of “fooling the region” when he hinted in front of TV cameras before the elections that saw him confirmed as prime minister that he would significantly reduce prices or do away with the tolls completely if elected.
Cristóvão Norte from PSD said the Socialists “deceived citizens” when they promised a “50% price reduction” for the A22 tolls during the last election.
Parties that support the government are also up in arms.
“Tolls are not unavoidable as some would want us to believe. If they still exist it is because the PS, PSD and CDS want them to,” said PCP (communist) MP Paulo Sá.
João Vasconcelos, leader of anti-toll group CUVI and MP for the Bloco de Esquerda, stressed that the region is in a state of war with thousands of road accidents, many of them leading to serious injuries and death.
He added that the fight against the tolls will continue despite this new setback.
José Luís Ferreira of environmental party Os Verdes also highlighted the lack of alternatives to the Via do Infante and the consequences of the tolls, such as a “loss of competitiveness and losses for employment and for the region”.
Meantime, a statement released by CUVI said that the group is starting to lose hope that PS will ever do anything to scrap the tolls.
“It turns out that PS, in terms of the tolls in the Algarve, is just an extension of the previous PSD/CDS-PP government,” it said.
The group nonetheless refuses to give up and is promoting yet another go-slow protest on the EN125 between Loulé and Lagoa on Monday, April 17.
CUVI is also trying to organise meetings with the Prime Minister and President in last-ditch attempts to scrap the A22 tolls before the summer. (click here)