EXCLUSIVE by PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]
Introducing tolls on the Algarve A22 motorway will force drivers to switch to the EN125 and turn that road into a “death trap”, says the politician behind the recently-formed group opposing the imposition of charges.
Left-wing politician João Vasconcelos, who set up the Comissão de Utentes, commission of users, to co-ordinate the fight against the “unpopular decision”, told the Algarve Resident that the EN125 is not an alternative to the A22.
“Comissão de Utentes is a group of people who do not agree with the decision of the Government,” he said. “The EN125 does not represent an alternative and the tolls will aggravate the existing situation on that road.
“The number of deaths and accidents is already worrying and will increase dramatically if the traffic increases as people are forced off the A22. People will also have more difficulties in commuting to work, companies that use cars for business will have much to lose with this move and tourism will be the most affected sector.”
João Vasconcelos said the group is determined to do everything within its power to stop the introduction of tolls in the region.
“We need the support of all residents, business people, Câmaras and political parties. The involvement of everyone is crucial to prevent this crisis in the Algarve region from worsening.
“We have many people who contact us every day and propose several actions to develop. This is a big mess that the Government has created.”
Originally tolls were not going to be implemented in the Algarve as the Government said the EN125 did not represent “a viable alternative”.
“The upgrading of this road was delayed and the work has only recently begun, when it should have started a long time ago,” said João Vasconcelos.
He added that even with the planned redevelopment of the EN125, it will not become an alternative for the A22.
“The EN125 it is a very busy road, which will only be worsened with the introduction of tolls on the motorway,” he said.
“Public transport is not a viable alternative for people in the region, especially as most routes are only available in built-up areas, leaving the rural areas with limited services.
“Until there are real alternatives, we cannot accept the introduction of tolls. It is inadmissible and unthinkable.”
He also criticised the concessions offered to local users, saying they were very limited.
“In 2012 everyone will have to pay the same. The concessions are just a strategy from the Government to ease the situation.”
The A22, he said, is not part of the national SCUT road network and was built with funds from the European Community.
“It has no motorway profile. People will use the EN125, which is basically a ‘street’ that runs along the Algarve from end to end – and that will lead to the deaths of many people.
“Citizens, tourism companies and everyone who lives in the Algarve will be affected by this situation. The crisis in the region will worsen and residents will pay more taxes,” he said.
João Vasconcelos described the unemployment rate in the Algarve as “worrying” and said many people live from the tourism activity. Tolls, he said, will raise the unemployment rate in the region and more businesses will be forced to close.
“We will contact all business associations in the Algarve so that together we can stop this situation in favour of the region and its citizens. Most of the Algarve municipalities do not agree with the introduction of tolls and are very unhappy with this situation,” he said.
Comissão de Utentes is due to hold another meeting where all the proposals that they want to develop will be presented.
In the meantime, the group is going to start an online petition, a weblog, and contact the main political groups and associations.
“We are open to any ideas. We have already received several proposals which are being studied with the citizens who have contacted us,” he said.
For more information about this group, please call 918 178 329 or 965 162 223.
Residents Say No Tolls – see http://www.algarveresident.com/story.asp?SID=342
If you have a view, please email the Algarve Resident on [email protected].