The government’s plan to introduce tolls on all highways and highways by 2024 has turned into a gymkhana riddled with obstacles. The proposal has generated another crack within the Executive, since Unidas Podemos now refuses to implement the rates despite including the proposal in the programmatic agreement signed with the PSOE at the
beginning of the legislature. And in the private sector, transporters threaten to paralyze the country with their mobilizations if the Government turns tolls into a drain.
Industry sources explain that “carriers are categorically opposed to tolls because it would mean, in practice, double taxation.” Carriers recall that they already pay about 19,000 million a year in specific taxes to maintain the roads through the special hydrocarbon tax and VAT on fuel. «The 8,000 million a year that they say are needed to maintain the roads could come out of there, “they denounce from the sector.
Despite this, road transport is aware of the Government’s insistence on the pricing of the high-capacity network in the hands of the State. Therefore, they warn that if the Executive finally decides to go ahead with their proposal, they will only accept the plan if it is accompanied by “direct compensation” to the sector. Compensations that, in principle, “would adjust to the toll model that is finally approved.” “We maintain almost weekly contacts with the Ministry and they know that our situation after the pandemic is complex,” explain business sources.
The ball is in the Executive roof. On Tuesday, the Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez, assured that the Executive will present “in a few months” a proposal to rate the network that will be “fair, rigorous and sustainable” and will have the approval of the social agents and the transport sector. Government sources add that the plan is advancing at a good pace and the forecast is to present it before the end of the year.
The calendar clashes head-on with reality, because the minister has not yet sat down to address this matter with the transport companies, despite the fact that they requested a meeting as soon as he took office last summer. In addition, the sector – which does not even know the Executive’s proposal to rate the network – warns that it has a document signed by the former Secretary of State for Infrastructure, Pedro Saura, where the Government undertakes not to implement tolls without the consent of transport. If this commitment is broken, some trade union organizations of transporters do not rule out already carrying out a series of mobilizations that could paralyze the country.
After knowing that the government had included in the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan sent to the European Commission at the end of April a project to implement tolls throughout the high-capacity network before 2024, panic spread through the business fabric. The Executive withdrew weeks later and assured that certain groups, such as transporters and people who circulate through certain routes to get to work, would be exempt from these new rates. But over the months that promise has been diluted, and the Executive has opted for secrecy regarding its final plan.
From the Government they slide that the implementation of these rates (the Executive already avoids talking about tolls) would be carried out in two phases. In the first, the vignette system would be implemented, a sticker that is pasted on the windshield of the car and allows driving on toll roads for a certain period. And in the second, conceived in the medium term, a pay-per-use system would be adopted according to which drivers who drive more kilometers would have to pay a higher toll. A model that requires certain infrastructure, such as electronic toll systems. Still, the final model is not yet closed.
Although at first the pricing was conceived for all types of roads, the Government rectified and ensured that it would only be carried out on high-capacity roads, that is, highways and highways. In practice, this can prevent workers living in dormitory cities from having to pay large sums to go to work in locations such as Madrid or Barcelona.
Anyway, the truth is that the model is still in the air. And the only thing that is clear is that the Government will have to implement it. As reported by ABC, Brussels is closely monitoring this issue, as road tolls are extremely widespread within the European Union and it is a measure welcomed by the Commission. As if that were not enough, the proposals included in the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan sent to Brussels in the spring represent formal commitments that Spain must undertake within a set deadline to access European funds.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism