The Portuguese Motorway Tolls Fuck Up

A little round robin letter: and contrary to most of such, he\’s not actually got this situation wrong:

Motorway madness in Portugal 14 May, 2012 – Mike Beggs is a regular
business traveller to Europe and he has watched the European project break down
into chaos over the last few years. This is his report on his recent trip to
PortugaI.I have just returned from a business trip to Portugal with a potential
fine of 27 (£25) and a possible Portuguese Police criminal record. So what was
my crime? I hired a car from Hertz and drove it on the new motorway, paid for by
an EU grant!
In September 2011 the EU imposed an austerity package on Portugal. This included
putting high tolls on the excellent motorway system. But the Portuguese had
never before charged motorway tolls, so there are no toll booths to be able to
collect the money.
Under a directive from the EU, the Portuguese Government overcame this by
installing cameras along the motorways, telling all Portuguese number plate
motorists that they must pay the tolls. But how?
They must go to the Post Office after 2 days but before 5 days, to pay cash.
Clearly this programme, like so many other mad EU schemes, will not work and
especially for those hiring cars. The result is that no Portuguese driver uses
the motorways. They are deserted, empty of traffic! But the ordinary roads are
overloaded and the town centres are chaotic. The ordinary roads are breaking up,
but road works are all cancelled because of the EU austerity measures.
Business is suffering and the chances of economic recovery are receding.
But how does this affect me and any other visitors to Portugal this year? Well,
I collected my rental car at 7 p.m. at the airport and drove to my hotel.
Dutifully, 2 days later I went to the Post Office.
I asked what I owed for one short trip. The counter lady advised Your car was
used for three motorway journeys that day, you owe 9.90. She wanted me to pay
for the previous hirer who, quite logically, left on a plane earlier that day!
When I refused to pay for someone elses tolls I was told You will get a fine
and a criminal record!
She would not accept part payment what I owed, so I left without paying
But this left another problem. I still had to drive back to the airport on the
motorway to return the car so how would I pay. I asked the staff at Hertz. Their
advice was It is best that you dont use the motorway on the last 2 days of
your stay in Portugal. But the only way to get there and not miss my plane was
to drive on the motorway.
At the airport I went to the Post Office. I asked to pay for the trip and she
said the system is crazy you have to come back in two days to pay for it,
because the scanning equipment does not advise us until then! I left the Post
Office unable to pay for the trip I had made.
When I handed the car back to Hertz, I told the manager what happened. He
gloomily explained Well, you will get a fine and a criminal citation in about 5
months time.
So, my recommendations are:
Dont travel to Portugal where EU austerity equals empty motorways, traffic
chaos elsewhere, and an impossibly mad system for the collection of motorway
tolls from overseas visitors.
Michael Beggs

You see, locals pay these tolls by having a transponder in the car (costs, from memory, €25 or something and you get your first 10 trips a month free, at least this year we do). But the car hire companies have not installed these transponders.

At which point we could say that it\’s all the car hire companies\’ fault. But, at least where we are on the Algarve, we get a lot of foreign cars too. Especially Spanish, coming over for the beaches in August. And they all face exactly the same problem: in fact worse, as the only way you can get from the Algarve back into Spain (without a huge detour at least) is over the one bridge which is the motorway which has these tolls on it. By definition you will be outside the country and unable to pay that particular toll.

So yes, it really is a governmental fuck up as well as a car hire company one.

BTW, if you do some to the Algarve this summer you really are going to face this problem. There are three east west roads, the 125, which goes through the coastal towns, one after the other along the coast. This is appallingly congested and takes forever. Which is why they built the A 22, the motorway formerly free and now with these new tolls, parallel and perhaps 5 to 10 km inland. When it was toll free it was great, relieved the pressure on the 125. Now, not so much. The tolls are high compared to local wages of 500 € a month you see.

Then, another 10 km inland or so there\’s the 124. Which is tiny, windy and please don\’t use it as that\’s what we locals do.

And other than that there really is no way to go east west. Unless you want to go 50 km north and then do so.

It really isn\’t the very bestest piece of traffic management planning ever.

32 thoughts on “The Portuguese Motorway Tolls Fuck Up”

  1. Stupidity of the finest kind.

    Governement stupidty. I do not balme the car hire companies, but they will have to install the transponders (and make sure they cannot be removed) eventually to keep their business. One more unnecessary government imposed hindrance to economic growth. Way to go!

    I get mine ‘tag’ free and a discount for using it on Spanish (and some French motorways). But you can pay by cash or credit card too.

  2. And how typically European that they insisted he pay for the previous person’s tolls, or not pay at all.

  3. Do the Portuguese police really have the inclination and resources to pursue foreign motorists for trivial fines?

    To be scrupulously fair the whole thing is breaking down because individual countries are insisting more and more on making money off foreign drivers by means of these road tolls. The commission was at one point dead set against it, but gave Austria an opt-out for its “vignette” system, so everyone else is now following suit. Slovenia is particularly nasty about its motorway tolls. Hungary has a pay online in advance system – in Hungarian. Austria charges a lot and extra for the tunnels, but their motorway network is genuinely expensive to maintain and lots of people do literally drive across Austria without stopping.

    But it’s really something that has to be harmonised, even the skeptics have to admit some kind of harmonised system is better than the current mess of different collection methods in different places. Better still would be the old system of “your drivers can drive in our country without extra charge and in return ours can drive in yours without extra charge.” After all, it is stupid^4 to have taken down all the border checkpoints only to make everyone stop at every border and buy another bloody sticker.

  4. This man’s complaint is with Hertz. He wants to obey the local laws but just can’t.
    1. Unless there’s a good reason, the cars they hire could have had boxes fitted. The customer could settle up when the car is returned.
    2. If there is a good reason, or even if there isn’t, elementary customer service would have someone go to the post office regularly / daily to settle up. If customer had left the right amount in advance, no prob. If there’s money to pay, take from card. it’s an international company, or at least, it’s a brand with an international reputation to protect

  5. I have driven in a lot of countries where the standard of driving has been appalling, but I have never seen so many obviously almost literally blind drunk drivers as in Portugal (I mean meandering all over the road with sudden wild corrective swings back), to the extent that I made sure never to set out at certain times of day by car.

  6. The M50 in Ireland has the same sort of system “eFlow” as it’s called. It has all the same problems. People generally use the road though because you can’t avoid it.

  7. When I was in Portugal at the end of April I was advised to avoid the motorways for exactly this reason. We were driving down from Lisbon to Albufeira and actually it was very pleasant drive compared to the motorway, although it did take a couple of hours longer.

    That said, it was pretty off-season so the roads weren’t that busy.

    How they could think to introduce a toll system without any revenue-collecting infrastructure I don’t know. Would it have been so hard to wait until all the pieces are in place (including toll booths for people without the transponders or easy access to a post office) before implementing this?

  8. James – To be fair to TFL you can pay the Congestion Charge online in advance rather than having to wait two days, and the website supports quite a respectable number of foreign languages. Still I see your point and perhaps foreign visitors may not be aware of all that.

    Still, putting aside whether or not the Charge is a good idea or not, they couldn’t exactly put toll booths on the roads into London.

  9. Will Williams (comment 5) thinks that the car rental companies have money trees. In fact it’s bloody difficult to make money from car rental so the funds to a) pay for the transponders and b) pay for staff to spend time at the post office are difficult to find.

  10. It is probably more effective at stopping Spain from invading Portugal – as Spain presumably doesn’t have the money to pay the Portuguese road tolls for its tanks and APCs.

  11. @David Hall, it is just another part of a concerted conspiracy to make motoring across Europe more difficult. We’re supposed to be making the rules and regulations more homogeneous and simple so you can’t fall foul of something silly just by being in a different place. Congestion charging, road tolls that are ambiguous and hard to pay, the German habit of letting little towns and boroughs determine that cars in certain emission classes aren’t allowed in (and requiring everyone who does enter said town or borough to display a windshield sticker, yes, including foreign cars), France insisting you carry two breathalyser kits, and so on, this is all national (and in some cases local) regulation which impedes the free movement of people and is therefore a bad thing. Even to many euroskeptics. Verily the ceding of some sovereignty to a supranational organisation is a good thing. Shame it’s being reversed by revenue-hungry states.

  12. The Portuguese tol system may not be the most efficient or user friendly but Mr. Beggs certainly shot himself in the foot with his letter and his negligence. An electronic tol sensor can be rented for which a deposit of €27 is required and €10 paid up front from which tol costs will be deducted. Upon return of the unit the €27 deposit will be returned. All of this can be paid for by credit card. Also through the website, the site of the Portuguese postal service one is able to buy credit up front by registering the license plate number without having to rent a “black box”. Tol costs made will then be automatically be paid for by credit card. On more information can be found about the electronic tol boxes and on information can be found on all tol issues pertaining to travelling by car through Portugal.
    Now who f*ck*d up?

  13. [email protected] how many hire companies tell you the number plate of the car you’re getting in advance. Do they offer these toll sensors at car rental desk so it is easy to get one. It’s just revenue raising, with the usual trick of loading all the costs onto the “customers” so there is a greater chance of fining them for getting something wrong.

  14. Didn’t Ronald Reagan say something like “I’m here from the government to help myself” ?

    ALan Douglas

  15. Ian: why on earth would you need to know the number plate in advance? Portugal is hardly Outer Mongolia when it comes to Internet access.

    Incidentally, I love the fact that the wanker in the OP has fixated on the EU being at fault for something which is in absolutely no comprehensible sense whatsoever the EU’s fault.

  16. [email protected] you must have missed this sentence in the OP post
    “In September 2011 the EU imposed an austerity package on Portugal. This included putting high tolls on the excellent motorway system. But the Portuguese had never before charged motorway tolls, so there are no toll booths to be able to collect the money.”

    That sounds like the EU to me, maybe you can refute this fact.

    You need to know the number plate to use the Portuguese Post Office website, according to the poster. It’s all extra hassle for you to cope with. Is there a wifi hotspot near the rental desk, or in the airport, who knows?

  17. I totally agree with Will Williams.
    Next time I go to Portgual I shall either take a taxi or walk.

  18. @Ian Knowing the licence plate number is an option i.e. if you want to use the pay in advance method. Probably if you give the rental company a call they can give you the license plate number and otherwise it’s possible to register online as soon as you get the car OR you just get an electronic tol sensor attached to the car. In any case there is no excuse to get in trouble as all this information is provided by the Portuguese in the internet and in English.
    It’s hardly revenue raising as foreigners can probably easily leave the country without ever having to pay the tol or any fines. If the Portuguese government wanted to raise revenue they would have installed tol booths no?

  19. @Tim Newman,

    winter tyres. Depending on the season. The law says that your vehicle’s equipment should be appropriate to the weather conditions. Which presumably means that as, in October, you transit from alpine snowbound wilderness to sunlit lower-saxon upland, you should leap out at 200km/h and change the wheels and tyres.

  20. I went to portugal and used a electronic toll road by accident as it was only 6 months old and my GPS guided me down it.

    I had told the car hire that I didn’t want the electronic sensor as I was only going to a specific area which didn’t have toll roads and I didn’t want the extra

  21. I went to Portugal and used a electronic toll road by accident as it was only 6 months old and wasn’t there last time.

    I had told the car hire that I didn’t want the electronic sensor as I was only going to a specific area which didn’t have toll roads…..

  22. …. and I didn’t want the extra €15 COST. Instead of telling me of this new road right next to the town I told them I was visiting (coina) they just left the sensor in the car without doing any paperwork….

  23. We drove through the toll (55c) and the sensor bleeped. Two days later I went to the post office to pay, but they said that the via verde sensor had paid already….

  24. When I got back to the car hire they told me that I couldn’t pay the 55c but would have to wait for up to 2 months till the car hire company invoices me for the 55c plus admin charges!!!!!!!
    Then I would have to pay via bank transfer from London. …

  25. I’m forced to go to Portugal because of the in-laws living there, but I won’t be hiring cars again, will just use the cheaper train to coina and borrow the family car.

  26. i drive to portugal every year and i do not have any issues as my car is english and they want send fines to london as it will cost more to do the paper work and send it then the fine. so people dont stress i have hired before and im still waiting for my fine from 2 years ago and still not in london.

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