February 25, 2021

The Government plans to put a “symbolic” payment on the freeways | Economy

The department headed by José Luis Ábalos continues to turn the highway financing model. The minister already assured in Congress in the last legislature that would seek a political consensus to establish a formula with which to financially guarantee the maintenance of the highways, which has an annual cost to the State of 11,000 million euros.

Among these alternatives, the payment for use is gaining strength, with the novelty that this payment would be much lower than what is now paid on the toll roads of private concessionaires because it would only be used to pay for infrastructure maintenance and environmental impact, while motorway tolls also cover construction.

The payment for use of the highways would be accompanied by other measures such as allocating part of the collection to reduce the traditional tolls of the territories that have highways where a concession is still in force, the same sources reported.

Promotion defends that if finally the alternative were the payment for use, the user in general will not pay more than now for the use of high capacity roads, since the highways whose concession ends will be released from the current toll. A practice that has opened the Government of Pedro Sánchez since the previous executives preferred to extend the concessions to the private companies to that the ownership returned to the State.

"The payment would be more uniform throughout the territory and it will not happen as now that some territories bear a lot of tolls and others practically nothing," ministerial sources said.

Toll Suppression

The Government has already abolished the AP-1 toll of Burgos-Armiñón, which expired in December 2018, after concluding its exploitation contract with Itínere. In addition, on January 1, 2020, the toll collection will be abolished on two highways, the AP-7 section between Tarragona and Alicante, and the AP-4 between Seville and Cádiz, at the end of that date the contract for concession they have with Abertis and also revert ownership to the State.

The Government plans to put a “symbolic” payment on the freeways

The same path could follow in 2021 the route of the AP-7 that connects Barcelona with La Junquera and Tarragona, and that of the AP-2 Zaragoza-Mediterráneo. In total, more than 1,000 kilometers to which you have to join the eight broken highways (among them the Madrid radio stations) that have had to be rescued by the State after its bankruptcy and that add another 500 kilometers.

However, the same sources insist that there is no decision taken and is still far from the executive phase. Before we want to articulate a broad political consensus, which would be part of a State Pact for Mobility. In addition, we want to include in that pact the autonomous communities and the provincial councils that also have high capacity roads and that could join the model.

For the Government, the possible choice of payment for use instead of other models such as the shadow toll (not charged directly to the user but to the Administration depending on traffic) has in its favor that it is a model that is already It employs in other European countries, releases fiscal pressure, internalizes costs, facilitates ecological transition and improves territorial cohesion.

Of the entire road network, 17,163 kilometers are high-capacity roads (toll roads, free highways, dual carriageways and multi-lane roads), of which more than 12,000 kilometers belong to the State Highway Network.

Of the 2,759 kilometers of toll roads owned by the General State Administration, subject to administrative concession, 1,533 kilometers have ceased or will no longer be subject to contract by 2021, 56% of the total, whose management and conservation costs will be of assuming the State in charge of the General Budgets.

The end of tolls also has implications for employment. The UGT union had 1,500 jobs last July that could be lost by the liberalization of several tolls by 2021, since, as happened with the AP-1, the state company Seitssa, which assumes highway management when its concession expires, cannot surpass all jobs, in particular, those that have to do with payment.

Ábalos: “There can be no territories that pay and
others that don't ”

The Minister of Public Works, José Luis Ábalos.

The Minister of Public Works, José Luis Ábalos.


The Minister of Public Works, José Luis Ábalos, said, in statements to EL PAÍS, that the financing of the high-capacity road network must be urgently addressed, and that for this “two community principles must be taken into account: one, the polluter pays; and two: the payment for use ”. In addition, it emphasizes that in some territories infrastructure is paid and in others not.

“We have to consider the financing model of the high capacity network. That is one of the challenges of the new Government. My idea is that these two principles must be applied. We have an infrastructure that in the railway field is indisputable, everyone pays for it; At the airport, we all pay the fees. But I don't know what happens when it comes to a highway. Because there is also a lot of commercial activity on it and it must be considered as another infrastructure. Infrastructures are used by people who use them. Grandparents who stop driving do not use them, nor children and workers, as much from home to work. But what about the rest? When we travel, from time to time, ”says the minister.

The holder of Development defends the policy of his department in this matter since he came to power after the motion of censure in June 2018, with the decision-making such as not to re-enact the concessions completed and free of tolls to those that were beating .

“Only the PP rescued highways”

“We have not rescued any highway. The PP rescued the radials. What we have done is not to extend or make concessions finalized. The policy is going to be that because we start from a principle of equality of all territories. There can be no territories that have to pay for the use of their infrastructure and others that pay nothing. We must extend the principle of equality of all territories, ”he says.

However, Ábalos admits that in the debate we will have to take into account particular cases such as highways in Galicia or Asturias, whose cost is higher. In addition, it emphasizes the need to address the financing of high capacity roads whose maintenance has skyrocketed and that with the current budget allocation is not guaranteed.

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