Let the tolls commence
Three additional motorways, including the Algarve’s A22 are since Thursday no longer free. To travel the length (130 kilometres) of the motorway will now cost just under 12 euros. Despite all the criticism levelled at paying to drive on the A22, only ten of the Algarve’s 400,000 residents (excluding traffic police and journalists, who numbered about 20) gathered in Faro on Wednesday for one final protest before of the introduction of tolls a day later.
The run-in to tolls being charged on previously free motorways was this week marred hundreds of motorists in the Algarve are being turned away from outlets selling the transponders they will need to travel on the region’s only motorway.
A simple glance at Algarve car parks reveal that only a small percentage of vehicles are equipped with Via Verde transponders which come at a cost of €27.50.
Two of Portimão’s three outlets for these transponders sold out first thing Monday morning, with queues at the city’s third outlet, stretching into the street.
Staff were already taking pre-orders as motorists sought to avoid the hassle and delay of being forced on to the single-lane EN125 as they wait to become “legal” to travel on the motorway.
Stock of the transponders is expected to be replenished “by this weekend”, though guarantees were not forthcoming.
Similarly, obtaining information on what to do as to the introduction of the tolls approached has been clouded in mystery.
Via Verde in Lisbon reasoned that motorists using the A22 motorway without the transponder could do so, but had a limited period in which to contact their nearest CTT post office where they could pay their debt.
Once this period has elapsed, which is estimated by Via Verde to be five days, a letter will be sent to the address of the motorists who, in addition to the cost of travelling on the motorway, will be liable to “administrative costs”.
It has since emerged that an administrative cost of 30 cents per passage without a transponder will be charged in addition to the toll fee.
Drivers of foreign registered vehicles, but who do not have a Portuguese bank account will need to rent a transponder from the Via Verde office in Faro. This is the only venue in the Algarve where this type of transponder can be rented from for now.
Drivers arriving from Spain will be able to visit an automatic kiosk at the border where a pre-paid and temporary transponder can be rented for periods of one, three and five days.
Another kiosk will be available at the Olhão service station on the A22.
Payment is done via an international credit card. A deposit of €27.50 is payable and is refunded upon the return of the transponder. The rental period is for 90 days only, and should an extension be sought, the entire process will need to be repeated. In addition to the deposit, a weekly rental fee is also payable (€6 in the first week, and €1.50 in subsequent weeks). ”Travelling the length of the A22 from Bensafrim (Lagos) in the west to Vila Real do Santo António in the east, will come at a total cost of €11.60, an average of just under nine cents for each of the 130 kilometres the motorway measures.
It also emerged this week that the National Federation on Spanish Transport Associations has lodged a complaint with the European Union.
The association argues the exemptions and discounts given to local residents are discriminatory and against the EU’s rules of free movement and circulation.
Until 30 June 2012, residents who live within 20 kilometres of a motorway will have ten free trips, followed by a 15 percent discount for the remainder of a calendar month.
The Spanish association says either they should be given the same benefits, or they should be done away with altogether.
Based on past decisions and even if the EU were to issue their customary pre-judgment warnings, it is unlikely a ruling will be made before the end of next June.
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