Tolls on Autovías?

It's a sensitive time to announce that you will have to start paying for using autovías, so close to the General Elections, which is why Madrid back peddled.

SAL A-7 Junction or LobresThe people in Cataluña probably laughed at this because they have been paying toll fees since their autovías were first built and they consider Andalusian as economically pampered.

Of course, we shouldn’t confuse autovías with autopistas, the latter being motorways and the former, dual carriageways, as they are called in the UK.

The fact is that the EU provided the funds to build Spain’s modern road network and it is the EC that is insisting that Spain starts charging drivers for their use.

Why? Because Spain needs to get approval from the EC when drawing up its national budget and the EC said, that Spain needs more revenue; tax increases or finding the money in another form.

The conservatives first proposed it but when the socialists, once in power, said that they were considering putting toll booths on autovías the conservatives called them lunatics. That’s politics for you.

Well, that’s enough preamble, so let’s get on with latest events. Some days ago the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, said that the Central Government was not considering implanting the pay-to-use system in 2024 but rather were “renegotiating terms within the Plan de Estabilidad previously submitted to Brussels.”

The said terms contained a pledge by the Government to establish the toll system to help the sustainability and maintenance of the said roads. She admitted that the European Commission had suggested the idea but said that Madrid had ruled this out.

“It’s true,” she said, “that initially we were examining this option but we saw that it was not viable as neither the political consensus nor other conditions exist.”

The trouble is that the pledge before Brussels already exists, so the Government has to find another way and is confident that there is time to do it; hence back peddling on committing to tolls on autovías next year.

The Minister said that the cost of road-communication upkeep being lumped into the General National Budget doesn’t work and is different to what happens in many other European countries. She said that her Cabinet has already ‘liberalised’ (purchased from private companies) 1,000 kilometres of autopistas (something that we will come back to) which has saved drivers some 1,400m euros.

This back peddling came about after a televised, electoral face-off between the chief opposition leader,  Alberto Núñez-Feijóo and the PM, Pedro Sánchez, where the 2024 pledge was brought up. Days before, the Director General of Traffic (DGT) Pere Navarro, had confirmed in an interview on Catalan TV that tolls on Spanish autovías would come into being next year owing to pressure from Brussels. The DGT then back-peddled vigorously on national radio.

The Spanish Budget provides 20,000m euros each year for the upkeep of  a 26,466-km, road network, 12,000 of which are ‘high capacity’ roads (autovías).

Lastly, following the 2008 economic crisis, in turn followed by the pandemic, companies running autopistas lost money hand over fist and begged the Government to rescue them, so it did, by purchasing them. Now that they are economically viable, the companies want them back; hence the ‘liberalised’ autopistas mentioned above.

(News: Spain)

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