By Jo Pugh •
Published: 23 Sep 2023 • 11:00
Image of a toll booth near Barcelona.
Credit: Flextron/Wikimedia Commons
The Spanish Government has agreed with Brussels that there will be no motorway tolls in 2024.
The agreement was met after the European Commission accepted the Spanish Government’s proposal to “remove from the Recovery Plan the initial idea of introducing payment for the use of motorways.”
A commission spokesperson confirmed that “Much progress has been made and constructive conversations are being held with the Spanish authorities with a view to finalising the evaluation as soon as possible”, reported Cadenaser on Friday, September 22.
Eliminating tolls means finding alternative funding for road maintenance. The main issue is how to secure nearly €10 billion that is needed for road repairs. According to the Spanish Road Association, currently, 11 per cent of the road network in Spain (26,400 kilometres) is seriously deteriorated.
To be more precise, €9,918 billion is needed for road repairs: €3,261 billion for the national network (26,400 km) and €6,657 billion for regional and provincial governments’ networks (75,300 km). However, finding this €9,918 billion without tolls or similar fees remains a significant challenge, as 95 per cent of it is needed for basic “replacement and road reinforcement.”
The agreement with Brussels rejects tolls and suggests transporting goods via railways. In Spain, 95.8 per cent of goods are transported by road, with only 1.2 per cent by rail, making the transition challenging.
While in the past year overall cargo transport increased by 5.7 per cent, road traffic surged by over 10 per cent. Traffic on motorways also increased significantly, accounting for more than half of the country’s cargo movement.
As a result, roads are becoming increasingly congested, making a seamless transition from lorries to trains unrealistic. While the government’s plan hints at this direction, it requires substantial investments in both funding and logistics.
Railways currently receive the largest share of transportation investment, with 42.5 per cent of last year’s allocation. The 2023 Budget allocates €1,040 billion for roads and a significant €5,408 billion for railway infrastructure, five times more.
However, transitioning current cargo volumes from roads to railways would require massive investments, which seem unfeasible, particularly when half of the investment is allocated to high-speed trains (AVE).
In summary, tolls have been ruled out, but it remains uncertain if this decision is final. While it may not apply as long as European funding is available, it might be reintroduced due to a lack of domestic funds.
The European Commission has responded positively to alternative proposals for tolls presented by the Spanish government, including incentivising railway transport and subsidising rail-based goods transportation to facilitate the shift. Minister of Transport, Mobility, and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez, highlighted that the European Commission has approved plans to establish an emissions accounting system across the European Union from 2027, which could potentially result in a double tax at that time.
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Jo Pugh is a journalist based in the Costa Blanca North. Originally from London, she has been involved in journalism and photography for 20 years. She has lived in Spain for 12 years, and is a dedicated and passionate writer.
Does that mean the toll on the AP-7 from Malaga pasted Marbella to Estepona will end in 2024?
Unfortunately not Andrew – what it means is that roads like the A7 which is what we would call a dual carriageway in the UK but is known as a motorrway in Spain will not be turned into a toll road.
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