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How a state attacks its citizens
“This new report from the TC - which is an extensive document with more than 500 pages - shows the situation to be a great deal worse than originally feared. It talks of an increasing cost to the tune of 705 million euros”, explains Vasconcelos.
“In the end, we don’t know for sure which contracts these are”, though, according to Vasconcelos, they are referred to in the report as “hidden benefits”
“On top of this, there’s another 4.3 million euros of costs for private-public partnerships. This spells disaster for the State, disaster for taxpayers and disaster for the public exchequer”.
“Worse: income (from the tolls) covers only 20-30% of these costs. Independent of traffic, concessionaries have had their income assured. This is absolutely ruinous! The TC states that contracts hugely benefit the concessionaries, which include the banks involved”.
The spokesman for the Algarve’s Commission for Users of the Via do Infante (A22) adds: “Another point that the TC raises is that there was no socio-economic impact study done, vis-à-vis the road user, and road safety!”
Vasconcelos points out that there has been an increase in the number of traffic accidents on secondary roads and short-cuts - as more and more drivers try and avoid not just the tolls but the frustration of jams along the congested EN125.
In February 2011 we asked Vasconcelos if he thought it was possible to halt the introduction of motorway tolls. We ask him now if he thinks their reality can be reversed?
“I think it can, yes. It is now a proven fact that they have been an terrible mistake! Happily a lot of Algarve politicians who contributed to this social and economic disaster are now reviewing their positions. Even the socialist Miguel Freitas has suggested suspending tolls in August. The PSD’s Mendes Bota has suggested “definitively suspending tolls” if they show themselves to be too harmful to the Algarve… It’s just a great pity that these people forgot to say anything like this at the time parliament was voting”, he considers.
Vasconcelos refers also to objections against the tolls and various proposals mooted by left wingers (BE / PCP) in the Assembleia da República.
Talking about the repairwork to the EN 125 which has been left abandoned and incomplete, Vasconcelos admits it is “yet another stumbling block” in the sorry story.“The Spanish feel extremely offended. This was meant to be a toll-free area. The tolls are having a very negative impact on life in Andalusia, as well”.
But how has the fight gone, this far? “We’ve had 10 demonstrations in less than a year – some better attended than others. But I think the situation is going to get a lot worse. The cuts to holiday “subsídios” are going to keep a lot of people from coming to the Algarve. The increase in IVA on restaurants is causing a wave of bankruptcies. We’re convinced all this will cause outbreaks of fury and a lot of indignation here in the Algarve…” In June, there’s a further protest planned – this time with the Spanish – along the Guadiana bridge.
As for Europe, “we handed in a petition to the European Commission some months ago, in which we considered the tolls to be illegal. We’ve still not had a reply. We’re also waiting for a bid for an injunction that we lodged at Loulé tribunal last April to be decided upon. It’s another aspect of the judicial fight”.
“In terms of mobility, the Algarve has regressed 20 years,” he concludes.