Tolls costing state millions

By Brendan de Beer, in News · 18-04-2013 10:00:00 · 11 Comments
Tolls costing state millions

Thousands of cars have streamed onto secondary roads across the country since the introduction in December 2011 of tolls on previously unpaid motorways. The Algarve, in particular, has seen thousands more cars flood the EN125 while the A22 motorway has seen traffic more than halved. This has left the Government in a situation where not only has it to pay road operators more to maintain secondary roads (based on ballooning traffic counts) but it has also lost income from toll roads, boycotted by a combination of cash-strapped and angry motorists.

Concerns are now being consistently raised as to the profitability of charging tolls on previously unpaid or so-called SCUT motorways.

The issue has come to the fore once more this week, with news that Portuguese national road company Estradas de Portugal (EP), which ended 2012 three billion euros in the red, had raked in 153 million euros last year from tolls on SCUT motorways, but spent a third of it on administrative and maintenance costs.

EP said the cost of charging tolls had amounted to 50 million euros, mostly for the maintenance of the network, which includes 77 overhead gantries, along with the cost of support equipment, infrastructure and human resources.

EP admitted in comments to Lusa News Agency it was currently looking at “solutions which will allow for the implementation of a better model and one which is more efficient from an operating cost perspective.”

Revenue from tolls on SCUT motorways are paid to EP by road operators, who in turn are paid back by the state based on traffic and monies generated on routes they are contracted to maintain.

The situation is slightly different on secondary routes, but private contractors on roads such as the EN125 have benefitted from an increase in traffic as they too, are paid by the car.

EP chairman António Ramalho had earlier this month explained that cars travelling on these motorways without an electronic tagging device normally cost as much to bill as the amount they pay for using the toll road.

“The system is unsustainable and we hope it doesn’t stay the way it is. If it doesn’t change, we will not have enough money to conserve, preserve and maintain a road network which is considered the fourth best amongst OECD member nations”, Mr. Ramalho argued.

In the meantime, and with summer approaching, prominent regional figures are concerned the Algarve’s preferred road, the EN125, will not only be inundated by thousands of tourists on a tight budget, but that pending and urgently-required roadworks will not be carried out in time to support the annual surge in traffic.

Algarve MP Mendes Bota was one of these figures and this week expressed concern over the deplorable state of the EN125, especially in the Eastern Algarve.

“It is rather evident that urgent repairs need to be made prior to the summer season”, Mendes Bota was quoted as telling local media, adding that “we are in the middle of April and time is running out. The EN125 is in a deplorable state.

“Estradas de Portugal needs to take urgent measures to rectify this situation, which is posing serious risks to road safety and gives a very negative image of the Algarve”, the MP, who belongs to the ruling PSD party, concluded.

Based on figures from 2012, traffic on the EN125 can expect an increase of around 3,000 cars each day during the summer months. Certain stretches, such as the one between Odiáxere and Estômbar (an alternative to one of the more costlier stretches on the A22) witnessed traffic climb by an average of 5,400 vehicles a day in August.

Once more, the rise in cars on the EN125 will represent a cost to the state/taxpayer with road sub-contractors paid per vehicle recorded on their specific stretches of the road.

But tolls do not explain the entire reason behind a drop in traffic on paid motorways.

Last summer, the A22 had recorded an average loss in traffic of 8,500 cars a day, while there had only been a 3,000 increase in the number of vehicles on the EN125, meaning 5,000 fewer cars/trips made last summer.

But the rising demand of the EN125 has not translated into any visible improvements.

The opposite has in fact been true, with the Government cutting back €150 million euros (roughly a third) from the budget the road was allocated even prior to the introduction of tolls.

A protest has meanwhile been organised for next Saturday (27 April) by the Commission of Via do Infante (A22) road-users and will be staged between Faro and Olhão.

In comments to The Portugal News this week, the Commission’s leader, João Vasconcelos, stressed that “tolls don’t have any future in the Algarve.”

“The introduction of tolls in the Algarve has seen the region go back 20 years and has compounded the economic woes of its people.”

He also urged road-users “now, more than ever, to join in the protest” which is aimed at demanding the resignation of the current government and that it is replaced by “one which has the courage to do away with tolls once and for all.”

He also told The Portugal News the “protest will be more radical than usual in the hope that more attention can be drawn to the plight of the people of the Algarve.”

In response to calls last week by Tourism chief Desidério Silva to issue toll exemptions on weekends and bank holidays, João Vasconcelos said the “idea is not a very good one”.

“Not only will it strain an already complicated charging system, but is clearly aimed at saving tourists money and therefore discriminatory to the people of the Algarve.”


I purchased tollcards for my British registered car online from CTT postoffice website, all went well the first time I used the A22, my account was charged OK. But when I left Portugal to go home the camara system double charged me for the same journey, exactly the same date and time.
On complaining to CTT they state that although they take the money for the tollcards and charge for the tolls used, they are not responsible for the mistakes. This is Viv Livre

by William Bland from UK on 23-04-2013 11:26:00

Have just returned from 4 months on the Algarve. I had a rented car and incurred some toll charges. I found that the methood of payment is more frustrating than the actual cost. For a while I was paying at a little PO sub-station in Albufeira but one day I went in and the computer broke down. "What am I am supposed to do now?" I asked. Shrug of shoulders was the answer.
I did find out by accident that I could pay tolls at a local super market so that made things a bit easier - but still a pain. To top it all, I drove my car back to the rental firm in Faro prior to flying home. How was I supposed to pay the toll charges incurred on the trip to the airport as there is a 48 hour delay before they are even registered on the computer! What happened to those tolls? I have no idea other than they were not paid by me.
I don't know whoever dreamt up this system of tolls and payment, but whoever it was will certainly not be on the Nobel nominations for innovation. As the system seems to be costing Portugal a small fortune I would suggest it's time for someone in Lisbon to swallow their pride and scrap it. Failing that, at least install payment booths to make things easier for users.
Finally, on a far larger scale - Portugsl get out of the EU before it totally bankrupts you! The Eurezone is a disaster as any independent economist will tell you.

by Barry McKay from Other on 22-04-2013 05:27:00

Two things, one, common sense does not prevail in this country, money and greed do, second i can afford to use the A22, but i don't because i am Portuguese and if i get onto the A22 by mistake and my elderly 88 year old mother is sitting next to me she will well and truly let me know why i shouldn't waste money to drive on a road that should be free, it's the Portuguese mentality they don't want to pay if they can get it for free. It's been instilled in the population since Salazar and it's hard to change.

by Mr John from Algarve on 22-04-2013 02:50:00

Here is an idea for an alternative income stream: enforce basic traffic laws and ticket all those who do not comply.

This is a gold mine. The city of Lisbon (situation no different anywhere else in Portugal) could be making millions if they enforced even half of the most sensible and basic traffic laws.

by Scott from Lisbon on 20-04-2013 11:39:00

I sympathise with the cash strapped government. However, surely even the most ardent fan of tolls can see the system is too expensive to operate and clearly does not work.

If the government is unwilling (OR UNABLE) to scrap the tolls, may I suggest a compromise; reduce the fees dramatically and encourage motorist to use these roads. The old cliché " half of something is better than half of nothing" screams at all of us.

by Michael K from UK on 20-04-2013 09:31:00

to charge tolls is sensible for franc eand possibly Spain as these are through country's for tourist from many country's. and a good way to collect revenue for once off journeys.
a country needs good transport service to exist as a modern country but they have to be affordable
in the 70 America learnt this lesson when again tolls out striped demand.
to introduce tolls into many country's that dont have a captive through-put like the uk, is to divert the traffic

by peter from Beiras on 19-04-2013 10:01:00

The tolls are a terrible disincentive to visiting the Algarve. Most tourists fly in, I'd hazard, so aren't subject to tolls until they reach Portugal.
Geoffrey Swain's suggestion is so sensible that no politician would ever adopt it.
Just wait until a few more tourists are killed on the EN125 and see what happens to Algarve tourist income!
Portugal's doomed until it exits the Euro and takes control of its own fate...

by Nev from UK on 19-04-2013 03:09:00

Our holiday booking Companies in the uk are not mentioning the tolls when booking. I was told that it would be explained on arrival at the car hire site. With the rental of the tag on the windscreen and just two short trips along the A22, the Hire Company sent me a bill to my house in the UK and the total was just over 12 euros. Whilst, I understand the plight of the Nation and the need to bring in money and indeed save money, the tolls have and will have, a large affect on both. I travelled along the A22 on a Friday lunchtime in mid March and pretty much, I was the only vehicle on the road. This really needs to be thought out and as previous posters have said, the minor roads are in a terrible state of repair and the poorest for years just as the road infrastructure was looking tip top. Please do all that you can to get a re-think on tolls. Dont frighten people away. Every euro is needed in the Algarve.

by Dave Hazell from UK on 19-04-2013 11:55:00

We live in cascais and the tolls have stopped our many holidays to the algarve :-(( we don't want to drive on the EN 125 roads!!

by Susan from Lisbon on 19-04-2013 09:21:00

To save face, gain income, and save fuel the government can adopt the following procedure:- 1. vehicles doing 100kph. or less pay nothing 2. vehicles doing 100-120kph. pay at a 45 degree rising toll fee. 3. vehicles doing 120kph. or more pay both the 120kph. toll and the fine for excess velocity.
The advantages are 1. save face 2. save fuel as a national resource. 3. improve velocity related accident rates 4. create legitimate income from a controlled speed economy regime that uses an already installed gantry mounted sensor system.
This way everyone wins, and motorway business gets back to normal, and true economy is triumphed!!

by geoffrey swain from Algarve on 19-04-2013 09:09:00

Well, I don't like these toll roads either but... I don't think that it's about money for tourists, they are the same people that use the French and Spanish toll roads to get to Portugal. It's all about the system!

The Portugese gouvernment could stop with this system, but how would everybody react when the prices of car taxes would rise up to Northern European prices? Even in Belgium they introduced toll roads now, and yes, the Dutch are complaining. Their journey to Portugal is becoming very expensive...

by Gerrit Klaassen from Other on 19-04-2013 08:55:00
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