The A22 toll saga and the toll-free “alternative” route

Continuing its protest against the introduction of the A22 tolls, the Algarve’s Left Bloc is taking to the N125 on 25th July to highlight the many “black spots” and to stress the need for urgent improvements, if the N125 is ever to be a viable toll-free alternative to the A22.


Improvements to the N125 were promised to be completed by June 2012 in order to justify the introduction of the tolls, but the works were cancelled soon after they had started.

Once known as the most dangerous road in Europe, the volume of traffic using the N125 has increased dramatically since the introduction of the tolls last year. Around half of the traffic that was using the A22 is now using the N125. The Users’ Committee of the A22 claims that the government’s introduction of the tolls is directly responsible for the subsequent increase in accidents, fatal and otherwise.

With the increase in traffic, journey times have also increased. Two reporters from the news agency Lusa recently compared driving times from Lagos to Vila Real de São António on a relatively quiet midweek afternoon. The A22 took a sprightly one hour and sixteen minutes driving at 10 km/h below the speed limit, compared to the N125’s two hours and forty minutes. They remarked upon the large number of forced stops, as well as the high volume of trucks and work vehicles using the road.

António Eusébio, socialist leader of PS-Algarve has reiterated his party’s opposition to the introduction of tolls prior to completion of the planned N125 improvement works, claiming that the tolls have damaged both the Algarve’s economy and its image. He said that a new system for collecting tolls for cars with foreign number plates is more proof of the Government’s irresponsibility.

Under the new system, called “Easy Toll”, foreign-registered vehicles crossing into the Algarve from Spain must pull over into a special area to have their number plates photographed and their credit card details taken, so that they can be billed later. The roads authority – Estradas de Portugal – claims that this new system simplifies compliance, using a secure and convenient form of payment. It certainly improves compliance, as many drivers of foreign cars were simply ignoring the tolls. The Algarve Daily News comments that the new system is only convenient if you happen to have a credit card and don’t mind waiting around on a windy bridge.

In the meantime, the contractor carrying out the ambitious programme of works planned for the stretch of the EN125 west of Lagos has not been paid and so the works have ground to a halt. These works involved the replacement of the many traffic light junctions with roundabouts, on the sensible grounds that roundabouts are safer and involve less waiting around. But only a few of the roundabouts are complete, some elevated sections have been left without protective side barriers, and some partly-built roundabouts are an unsightly mess. The same contractor was working on the fibre optic telecoms cable between Lagos and Sagres as well as the link road from the A22 slip road to the N125 Val Verde junction. When all this work might resume is anyone’s guess.


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