We’ve already paid!

The Algarve’s biggest tourism associations have taken a stand against the proposition of the introduction of tolls on the Via do Infante motorway. They have stated that the road is not a “luxury”, but an instrument needed in order to get to work, adding that if the government does introduce tolls, it will reduce productivity and tourism in the region, which could have serious economic consequences.

In a joint meeting, ACRAL, AHETA, AIHSA, CEAL and NERA, the Algarve’s main tourism associations, all said that if the scheme were introduced, “it would be unfair and would greatly harm the Algarve’s tourism economy”. “The Via do Infante is not a motorway and no other alternative road exists,” explained a spokesman from the groups. “The EN125 is a dangerous road, therefore, the Via do Infante helps the Algarve to make hundreds of millions of euros from tourism every year.” He added that the introduction of tolls would have “catastrophic consequences” and said that the government’s comments about the motorway were false. “The government has said that the Portuguese population is currently paying tax to keep the motorway toll free, but the exact opposite is true. In fact, the Algarve is one of the regions in Portugal that generates the most money and only gets a small slice back. The Algarve has already paid for the Via do Infante.”

Toll free motorway was ‘a mistake’

Meanwhile, Telmo Correia, the Minister for Tourism, officially commented on the possible introduction of tolls on the A22 Algarve motorway this week. He said that the SCUT scheme – 900km of toll free roads created by the former socialist government – without doubt, represented, “a promise that has left an enormous bill for tax payers”.

Correia made it clear that it was inappropriate for him to comment in detail on the subject, as it was a matter which comes under the responsibility of the Minister for Public Works. However, he did say “there is a significant problem with SCUT and we are worried about the implications of this promise, which we view as an error by the previous government.” Correia also said: “This is not only a matter for tourism, it is a much bigger issue, but it is a problem that will, eventually, have repercussions on the sector.” The Minister then adopted the party line on the subject and tried to offer some hope by saying: “Concessions must be made for those using the roads on a daily basis”. He did not, however, refer at all to the tourists who use the roads.

Alternative road dispute

Later in a meeting between the Minister for Public Works, Jorge Costa, and the Algarve’s câmara presidents, Costa admitted that the EN125 is not a suitable alternative to the Via do Infante motorway. Local politicians have long pointed out that, if tolls were to be introduced on the Algarve motorway, the 125 would be the only alternative route open to the Algarve’s drivers. They believe that an increase in the number of cars using the road every day could have dire consequences, particularly in terms of the amount of accidents due to the road’s current condition. Costa responded by pointing out that, “the EN125 is a street that has to be maintained by local câmaras”.