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
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.