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DRIVING

MAP: The Spanish motorway routes that become toll-free in September 2021

From September 1st, more than 400km of motorways in Spain (mainly in Catalonia) will become toll-free.

motorways highways toll free spain 2021
A number of motorway routes in Spain have become toll-free in 2020 and 2021, despite pressure from the EU to introduce tolls across the high-capacity road network.Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

As announced in January by the Spanish government, road sections belonging to four major motorways in Spain will become toll-free as of September 1st 2021. 

The total amounts to 477 km, almost 200km less than the 664km promised initially

The motorway sections that will no longer charge peajes (tolls) are the following, all located in the northeastern regions of Aragón and Catalonia:

  • The AP-2 route between Zaragoza and El Vendrell in Tarragona
  • The AP-7 route between the French border and Tarragona
  • The C-32 section between Barcelona and Lloret de Mar
  • The C-33 route between Barcelona and Montmeló
motorways toll free spain 2021
Map showing the motorway routes in Spain that have become toll free in Spain in 2020 and 2021 (marked in blue).

According to the Spanish Road Association (AEC), the country’s vast road network is struggling to keep up with its maintenance requirements, both financially and structurally.

The Spanish government initially decided to counteract this by deciding it would introduce tolls on dual carriageways, but it backtracked last May following stiff public opposition to the proposal.

There are small differences between motorways (autopistas) and dual carriageways (autovías) in Spain relating to variable speed limits, access and exit points and whether they can go through urban areas, among other minor variances.

All dual carriageways are state-run, whereas motorways can be privately managed.

Maintenance and operation costs of the AP-7 and AP-2 are now set to cost the Spanish government €627 million, and Catalonia’s regional government will allocate a further €23.7 million to improve road safety measures on its highways. 

Abertis, the company that managed the now toll-free routes, has announced it will have to lay off 348 employees as a result. 

The decision comes several months after Spain conceded to pressure from the EU to introduce more tolls on its roads, especially in light of the €140 billion in EU rescue funds recently allocated to Spain.

The European Commission has approved that tolls become the norm on dual carriageways across the bloc as part of the EU recovery plan, so the Spanish government may be forced to put that matter back on the debate table.

As things stand, Spain is one of the countries in Europe where drivers pay the least for the use of its high-capacity road network, spending 76 percent less on tolls than the average for EU countries.

This lack of funding for maintenance has caused a deficit of €8 billion for the Spanish government which it is now looking to address, however unpopular the measure.

READ MORE: Will driving in Spain soon be dominated by paying motorway tolls?

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ENERGY

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

When you move into a new property in Spain you will need to change the account or contract holder over, so that any future water, electricity or gas bills will be in your name. It's not as easy as you may think; here's how you go about it.

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

Changing the name on your utility bills and the payment details should in theory be relatively straightforward, however you may come up against some common problems which can make the change pretty complicated.

Firstly, you will need to find out which energy companies have been contracted for your property.

You can do this by asking the previous owner themselves, contacting your landlord if you’re renting or asking your estate agent to find out for you.

When it comes to water, this should be provided by your local council or city, so you won’t need to contact the previous occupant for this one. 

How do I change the title over?

When you first move in, remember to note down the numbers on the gas, electricity and water meters, so you can give these to the utility companies and they can record how much you should owe, instead of having to pay for the previous occupant’s consumption as well.

Next, you will then need to contact the energy company supplying your property or water provider and ask for a cambio de titular a nombre del arrendatario o comprador (ask for a change of ownership in the name of the renter or buyer).

The process should be completely free for electricity and gas, but in some cities, you may need to pay a deposit for changing the title of the water bill, which you should get back when you vacate the property. The deposit can be anywhere between €50 and €100.

Contacting the energy company by phone may be the best way to make sure everything is done correctly, but some companies also have online forms where you can request a title change. When it comes to water, most cities will have water offices you can visit or specific e-mail addresses if you can’t contact them over the phone. 

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need to have on hand before you contact the company. These are:

  • The full name of the previous person who had the bills in their name
  • Your NIE / DNI
  • The address of the property
  • The date you moved in
  • The CUPS code (not needed for water)
  • Your padrón certificate (for water only)
  • A copy of the deeds of the property or rental contract
  • Your bank details

With all this information, they should be able to change the name over on the account relatively quickly, so that any future energy bills will go directly to you.

At this time, you can also change your tariff or amount of energy contracted to suit your individual needs.

How do I find the CUPS code?

The CUPS code or Código Unificado del Punto de Suministro (Universal Supply Point Code) is a number that identifies each individual property that receives electricity or gas. The number doesn’t change, so you could ask the previous occupant for this as it will be written on their energy bills.

Alternatively, if this isn’t possible you can contact your energy distributor – these are assigned by area and stay the same. By giving them your name, address and ID number such as NIE, they will be able to give you the CUPS code associated with your property.

What if I want to change to a new energy company?

If you’d prefer not to contract the energy company that the previous owner had, you can also choose to go with a new one. In this case, you will still need all of the same information and numbers as above, but you will contact the energy provider of your choice and the type of tariff you want to pay.

How long will it take to change the name over?

It can take between 1 and 20 days for the bills to be changed over into your name. The previous occupant will receive their final bill and then you will receive the new one from the date you moved in.

What are some of the problems I might come up against?

The most common problem is when the previous occupant is not up to date on paying their bills and has some outstanding debt. In this case, if you try to change the title over into your name, you will also be inheriting the pervious owner’s debt.

In this case, you will have to get the previous occupant to pay their outstanding bill before you can change it over into your name. If you have problems getting them to pay their bill, then you can show proof of the date you moved in by sending in a copy of your deeds or rental contract. This should in theory allow for the transfer of ownership without having to take on the debt, however it can be tricky process, often calling the energy company multiple times and waiting for verification of the proof.

What if the energy services have been cut off?

In the case that the property has been uninhabited for some time, the previous owners may have deactivated or cut off the utilities. If this is the case, then you will need to call the energy providers to activate them again. This will typically involve paying several fees to be able to get them up and running. The amount you pay will depend on the energy distributor and where the property is based in Spain. 

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