Thursday, December 8

Tolls on Spanish highways always seem just around the corner. But reality is stubborn

Install tolls on Spanish roads. A measure to which the Government committed to Brussels in 2021 and with which rivers of ink have flowed (digital and the one that stains). Almost a year after the first details were revealed, we only have one thing for sure: we have many questions and very few answers.

pay to circulate. One way or another, as we shall see. But, at least, this is what the Government committed to with the European Union as one of the counterparts to be able to access the 70,000 million euros of aid from the Next Generation funds. It is the realization of a possibility that has been on the table for a decade.

In the absence of the approval of new General State Budgets, the item dedicated to the conservation and maintenance of Spanish roads in 2022 was 1,371 million euros. An amount that the State wants to replace or, at least, attenuate with the payment for use.

When? If we stick to the Government’s Recovery and Resilience Plan presented to the European Union, the income from the use of Spanish roads should increase the state coffers at the end of 2023. The first objective was for these tolls to work at full capacity in 2024 .

But the date is in doubt. In the first place, the PGE 2023 project does not seem to have references to these new payments. Secondly, at the end of next year there will be elections, to exhaust the entire legislature, with the political burden on the decisions taken that this has. And, in addition, the Government had marked the month of March of this year as an unavoidable appointment to speak with the affected sectors, such as unions or carriers. These meetings, however, have not taken place.

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How and what kind? It is one of the great doubts and to which, at the moment, we cannot give an answer. In October 2021, El Español reported that the State could start this new toll system with a vignette that serves as a flat rate. It is a sticker that is stuck on the windshield and with which we have access to toll roads. Rates may vary depending on the days used or the type of vehicle, as is the case in Switzerland, Austria or Hungary.

However, as time has passed, in the declarations of the members of the Government the idea has been installed that the one who pollutes the most will pay more. In other words, a trial balloon has been launched that it will be paid for use and not through a flat rate. If so, a system similar to that of Portugal would be sought, whose portals collect the kilometers traveled by each vehicle and the amount that must be paid.

How much and who? The great question. Since the news was confirmed, the rumors have been happening. At first, El Economista pointed out that 80 euros per year would be paid for the use of a vignette. With the passing of the months and the turn towards a “pay per use”, the rumors have gone from five cents to one cent per kilometer traveled.

Another question to clear up is whether heavy vehicles will pay the same. New tolls are about to arrive in the Basque Country that will only affect this type of vehicle. In addition, some statements by Pere Navarro in May 2021 pointed out that those who went to work, study or go to the doctor would not pay. Since then, no member of the Government has made any further reference to this.

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The toll on highways will arrive from 2023: questions (and their answers) about the Government's plan to charge per kilometer traveled

Last movements. In short, there is nothing firm or approved that allows us to know when it will begin to pay for the use of Spanish roads, what the amount will be or who the affected drivers will be.

The last known movement is that, in June, the General Directorate of Roads commissioned Ineco to prepare several reports on a new highway financing system, which in turn has contracted the advisory services of KPMG Lawyers.

The great novelty is that on this occasion there is talk of “the implications that the possible extension of the new management and financing model could have to other road networks managed by different public administrations other than the General State Administration, such as autonomous communities, provinces and municipalities”, according to El Confidencial. That is to say, that the toll was applied to all Spanish expressways and not only to those dependent on the State.

Photo | emily

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