Motorway exemptions to end on 30 June

National road company Estradas de Portugal has confirmed that the exemptions and discounts in place on previously free motorways such as the Algarve’s A22 will be terminated on 30 June.

Portugal car hire raod tollsAccording to a law decree signed off by the Council of Ministers on 22 September 2010, exemptions and discounts on these motorways, formerly known as SCUT, “will cease to exist in regions where the buying power is 80 percent of the national GDP per capita”.

According to latest available figures, only three regions enjoy buying power which is above this threshold; Lisbon with 138 percent, Madeira (131 percent) and more significantly, the Algarve, with a figure of 108 percent.

Since December 2011, a total of 336,460 exemptions were in place which covered the A28, A29, A41 and A42 (in the North), the A22 (Algarve) and A23, A24 and A25 (Central Portugal).

The Minister of Economy and Employment revealed last month that while the government was currently assessing the impact electronic tolls have had on the above three regions, “we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past to not charge for something which costs the taxpayer a considerable amount of money.”

Last month, the European Commission ruled in favour of an Aveiro Town Hall complaint against the government in which the local authority questioned the legality of tolls on SCUT motorways.

While Aveiro and a number of protest groups applauded the decision, the Economy Ministry responded by clarifying the European Commission had not declared the charging of tolls illegal, only the ten free trips awarded to people and businesses residing within close proximity of the motorways and discounts granted once these trips have been exhausted.

The Commission ruled that this practice is in contravention of EU legislation and discriminates against fellow Europeans.

In a related story, the State Secretary for Tourism said over the weekend during a visit to Monchique that the government will present a solution by the end of April for the problems being faced by drivers of foreign-registered vehicles visiting Portugal.

“Together with Estradas de Portugal and the Portugal Tourism Board, we are studying an operational plan which will be implemented by the end of April”, said Cecília Meireles on the sidelines of her visit to the Algarve.

After months of dismissing concerns over the problems foreign visitors would face in visiting regions such as the Algarve, the government finally admitted at the beginning of the month that the system it uses could be flawed saying it was looking at other options.

The government explained at the time that it was studying a number of alternative methods of charging drivers of foreign-registered vehicles. Amongst these alternatives is the questionable possibility of drivers being able to pay for completed trips at hotels or restaurants.


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