Together against tolls

By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]

Opposition parties expressed their concerns about the introduction of tolls on the remaining SCUT roads that are still free to users, namely the A22 (Algarve), A23, A24 and a stretch of the A25, in Parliament on September 2.

The debate mainly centred on recommendations and petitions against the introduction of tolls, which the PCP, BE and PEV political parties considered “would strangle the country’s growth”.

“Aren’t MPs from the PSD and CDS-PP parties concerned about the economic downturn the tolls will cause? Those roads have no viable alternatives and more traffic will start circulating on roads near populations. Is it acceptable to have children walking near large trucks, some transporting hazardous materials?” said Heloísa Apolónia from the PEV ecological party.

Paulo Cavaleiro from the PSD said: “The country’s financial situation is very difficult, with new bills to pay every day. Sacrifices must be made.”

Hélder Amaral from the CDS-PP said that more important than introducing tolls on these roads was a financial plan to perform maintenance works on them.

Meanwhile, the PSD Algarve approved a motion against tolls called Não às portagens na Via do Infante (No to tolls on the Via do Infante) on September 1, warning that the already frail economy of the region will be worsened by the measure.

The Social Democrats (PSD) in the region also stressed that the Algarve has no alternatives to the A22, since the EN125 is practically a ‘street’ that runs through the Algarve and “does not guarantee traffic safety conditions.”

Faro Mayor Macário Correia believes the region needs to accept that it will have to pay to use the A22, saying that “the introduction of tolls is inevitable”.

He told the Algarve Resident: “Portugal’s public finances are in an unbearable state and the country has a huge debt to pay, which makes the introduction of tolls on the remaining SCUT roads inevitable.”

However, he says he will continue to oppose the introduction of tolls until the complete redevelopment of the EN125 road and hopes that the Government has “the good sense to finish the works before tolls start”.

Meanwhile, data released by the National Road Infrastructure Institute (INIR) for the first quarter this year shows that SCUT roads that recently started charging tolls have lost up to 50% of traffic compared with same period in 2010.

The A25 stretch from Aveiro to Albergaria and the A29 saw a drop of 52.2% in traffic daily.

The A28 linking Viana do Castelo to Porto, which had a daily traffic of 32,255 vehicles in the first quarter of 2010, saw this drop to 24,057 in the first three months this year, a decline of more than 25%.

The same scenario was registered on the A41, which lost more than 21,000 vehicles a day in the first quarter of 2011.

António Pina, President of the Algarve Tourism Board (ERTA), predicts the same will happen on the A22 as “many drivers will start to use the EN125 if tolls are implemented”, adding that the latter will have a “catastrophic effect” on the region.

“Tolls will increase debt, lead to insolvencies, more unemployment and more road accidents on the EN125,” he said.

“I think the Government should have carried out a feasibility study to assess the real impact of tolls in the region. But it hasn’t and, as a consequence, the Algarve will lose tourists and see its financial situation deteriorate further.”

Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]