1. I experienced the same problem as your reader Heidi Ellingsen (The Resident, February 10). In May 2004, my partner and I drove to Lisbon to watch the Portuguese Open Tennis Championship, staying overnight in Lisbon in our friends’ apartment. The outward journey was uneventful, but, on the return journey, the tollgate that we selected at the Lisbon end was unmanned, so we were unable to obtain a ticket.
When we reached the Algarve end of the motorway and stopped at a tollgate, we offered 16 euros, which is the amount we had paid on the outward journey. As we had no ticket, our money was refused and 45 euros demanded. I declined to pay and requested to see the manager. I parked the car and entered the office block. The person I saw was most unhelpful and unfriendly, his comment being “pay the 45 euros or we send the GNR to your home”. I offered the 16 euros again, which he declined, and I left without paying.
Within a short time, I received a letter demanding the 45 euros, failing which I would face a court action and a fine of 1,500 euros.
I contacted AFPOP who wrote a letter on my behalf, also attached was a letter from my friends in Lisbon confirming that I had been staying with them, but all to no avail. To avoid being involved in a court case, I paid up, very reluctantly. Like your correspondent, we feel cheated and are not in any hurry to use the motorway again.
John B Tuttle, by e-mail
2. The toll plazas at entry points to the A2 section of the BRISA roads network are serviced by automatic, unmanned, push button ticket dispensers, clearly marked with a large pictorial representation (no language skills needed) of a driver withdrawing a ticket. When the button is pressed and the ticket withdrawn, a message appears in a small window acknowledging the transaction and wishing the driver a good journey, in both Portuguese and English.
If the driver proceeds without a ticket, then he/she is liable to pay twice the maximum toll on arrival at the next toll plaza, as stated on the back of the ticket. Of course, if one hasn’t taken a ticket, one remains in ignorance of this stipulation. Perhaps your correspondent was required to pay (in the absence of a ticket) an amount that was twice the maximum toll from the furthest toll plaza giving access to the Paderne station, wherever that toll plaza might be. Possibly (at a guess) Elvas, from where the toll is now 25.40 euros. Double that, and you have over 50 euros!
The actual toll for a Class 1 vehicle from Castro Verde – where I assume your correspondent might have joined the A2 – to Paderne is currently 4.85 euros.
Visit BRISA’s website at www.brisa.pt, which contains a very detailed route map and toll calculator as well as a lot more of general driving interest. As far as I can see, however, it doesn’t mention the “double toll” penalty referred to above. This may be hidden away in the small print in Decreto-Lei 294/97, of October 24, governing BRISA’s operations and referred to on one of the site’s pages.
Clearly there is a problem and I would agree that it might be easy for someone unfamiliar with the system, and not paying sufficient attention to drive by the ticket machine without recognising it for what it is. I once did exactly that in another European country. An obvious solution would be to prominently sign the entry lanes with clear instructions in several languages. Personally, I think it is unlikely that BRISA has intentionally set up a “tourist trap” as your correspondent implies.
Robin Oram, Santa Bárbara de Nêxe