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Despite having been introduced in December 2011, paying to use the A22 toll road in the Algarve is still causing confusion. The massively unpopular toll was introduced by the government as part of its tax raising austerity measures. The A22 Via do Infante motorway was too narrow to allow toll booths to be added so tolls cannot be collected on the road itself. Cameras mounted on gantries record the registration numbers of vehicles using the road.
Cars registered in Portugal can pay in any of four ways:
All of these methods have disadvantages and do not suit use in hire-cars. Not using a transponder effectively means that you can't use the motorway on the last two days because you will not be able to pay for them as the information takes 48 hours to reach the post office and inexplicably there's no on-line method of payment available!
The transponder solutions all have to be paid for in some way and need careful management to make sure you aren't paying for someone else's tolls. Car hire firms seem reluctant to sign up to post-payment transponders and take on the additional administration to recharge customers.
There is a longer term proposal from the Association of National Car Hire Companies (ARAC) for hire companies to offer transponders for a daily charge (of around EUR 1.85) and link them to the customers' credit card for the hire period on the CTT database making CTT responsible for collecting payment.
Many Car Hire firms have simply opted out, leaving their customers to find their own way to deal with the issue. The official advice from zitauto.co.uk being fairly typical saying: "It's better not to use the A22 on last day of holiday because you have no way of paying”!
If you do not pay your toll fees, CTT will obtain your details from the hire company and write to you. Fines are ten times the toll fee, though we haven't actually heard of the CTT pursuing drivers in this country (yet…).
Economy Car Hire use 2 suppliers;
Motorway Tolls: The Algarve's main motorway, the A22, operates an unmanned toll system. A toll transponder device is available upon collection for an additional charge of 20 EUR, payable locally. This includes 15 EUR worth of pre-loaded credit and enables clients to use the toll road without having to visit local pay stations/post offices. An option to add more credit to the transponder is available upon collection or during the rental.
Supplier 2 show no details, so assume they have opted out and leave it entirely up to their customers to deal with.
Toll Management Service, if accepted, of approximately EUR 1.85 per day (maximum charge of approximately EUR 18.50), plus the cost of tolls. If declined client is responsible for payment of any incurred tolls at designated pay spots.
As the premium supplier, Avis have tried a lot harder than most. After monitoring customer satisfaction levels, Avis took the decision to fit transponders to all of its cars in Portugal. They call the service etoll, there are no rental charges for the transponder and you settle the charges when you return the car. It's the model solution the others need to emulate.
Traffic levels on the A22 have dropped by 56% since the toll was introduced with resultant increases in traffic density and accident rates on the alternative routes. The good news for those willing to use and find a way to pay for the A22 is that it is not busy!