Toll fees reduced by 15% for all users, announces government

AMAL  Algarve Câmaras Association says measure resembles a “marketing campaign”

By INÊS LOPES [email protected]

Effective from October 1, users of former SCUT roads in Portugal, including the Algarve’s Via do Infante – A22, will see a reduction in toll fees. On September 30, the day the former toll exemption regime for residents ended, the government announced a 15% reduction in toll fees.

The new charges apply to all users, with transport companies benefitting from an additional 10% reduction on the charges during the day and 25% at night time.

Roads covered by the new regime are the A17 and A29 (Silver Coast), the A4, A41 and A42 (Greater Porto), the A28 (Norte Litoral), the A22 (Algarve), the A23 (Beira Interior), the A24 (Interior Norte) and the A25 (Beira Litoral/Beira Alta).

The former regime, which allowed local residents and workers to benefit from 10 free trips a month, was deemed illegal and discriminatory by the European Commission, which led to the government abandoning it.

The European Commission argued the former system was violating the right of free movement of people and the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of residence.

The new regime conforms with EU legislation. In a statement from the Ministry of Economy, the content included: “The new regime will have no impact on the State Budget and respects the government’s user-payer principle at all motorways in the country.”

The Ministry of Economy also states that “the reduction of the toll fees also results from the efforts by the government to revise contracts with road concession PPPs, which has already allowed for accumulated savings of more than €1.2 billion.

‘Slow death’

But this latest move by the government is, according to João Vasconcelos from the A22 Users Commission (CUVI), “nothing more than an attempt to cover up the obvious”.

Speaking to the Algarve Resident this week, he said: “The government knows the new regime is actually worse than the previous one, when residents already benefitted from a 15% discount plus the 10 free trips.”

In the Algarve, the most recent protest by the CUVI was held on Monday in Faro. The commission’s objective, they say, remains unaltered – to continue protesting until tolls on the A22 are suspended.

“With the continuation of the tolls, we can expect more bankruptcies, higher unemployment, fewer visitors from Spain, a congested EN125 and more road accidents and fatalities,” said João Vasconcelos, summarising the consequences of the government’s persistence in keeping the tolls in place.

“The government and all those who support the tolls are responsible for the Algarve dying a slow death. In effect, the A22 is now more expensive. If traffic was already down by 60%, now it will be a desert.”

Stubborn and irresponsible

Elidérico Viegas, President of the Algarve Hotels and Tourism Resort Association (AHETA), told the Algarve Resident he was “sceptical” about the new move from the government.

“The government is adamant that tolls must continue against everything and everyone, even if these have proven already to be an economic disaster and an injustice at all levels. Countries cannot be led by stubborn and irresponsible politicians.

“The fight continues. Governments come and go, but the people remain. Sooner or later the voice of reason will be heard.”

The Algarve Câmaras Association (AMAL) has also slammed the new toll fee reductions, which it says are “insufficient” and resemble a marketing campaign to attract users to the A22.

Nationwide protests are planned for the upcoming days with Viseu, Covilhã and Vila Real planning actions on October 12. In Guarda on Monday, dozens of people gathered at Jardim José Lemos to protest against tolls on the A25, A24 and A23.

The A22 Users Commission is preparing to announce further protests in the Algarve.

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