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
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.
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.