Spain confirms drivers will pay to use motorways in 2024 but refuses to call them tolls

toll roads
Spain confirms charges will be introduced to use its motorways. Photo: Harmen Jelle van Mourik / Unsplash
The Spanish government has confirmed that it will impose a tax for the use of its highways, despite the fact that certain motorways became toll-free in September. It has however rejected that they be called tolls (peajes).

The government has said that it wants to introduce more charges for drivers using its motorways, but has asked that they be referred to as “tariffs for use” (tarificación por uso) rather than tolls. 

“The model that our entire road network is free is not something that happens in Europe”, a spokesperson for the government said.

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

This is not a new thing however, in April, Spain conceded to pressure from the EU and agreed to introduce more tolls on its roads. The government even presented plans to Brussels in order to put this in place.

Spain’s Secretary General for Infrastructure Sergio Vázquez on Tuesday confirmed that the government’s intentions have not changed in recent weeks and that they will continue to work on the implementation of the new road charges, which will come into force in 2024.

Spain’s Minister of Transport Raquel Sánchez recently indicated that they are “making progress” and that new plans are in the pipeline. “In a short time, a few months, we will be able to propose a pricing system to establish the maintenance of the road network,” she said.

“We will seek political consensus to establish a system that is in line with what has been applied in most states of the European Union,” she continued.

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.

They also have the fewest high-capacity toll roads – less than 20 percent of the total – despite having one of Europe’s most extensive networks (17,000 kilometres). 

Why are new highway tariffs being introduced?

Vázquez confirmed that the introduction of motorway tariffs would be based on two motivations – the conservation of the roads and the commitment to sustainable transport. 

In the Spanish government’s budget for 2022, €1.4 billion has been allocated to maintain the Spanish highways, an amount that the Secretary of State for Infrastructure, Mobility and Urban Agenda, Isabel Pardo, considers insufficient.  

According to Spanish construction employers’ association APCE, the introduction of tolls on the country’s toll-free network (14,100 kilometres) would generate €12.6 billion a year, which can be used both for maintenance and on public spending elsewhere. 

The Transport Ministry also hopes that the new charges will be an incentive for people to “return” to public transport, after a drop in the use of trains and buses during the pandemic. 

The train route between A Coruña and Santiago de Compostela for example has lost 40 percent of its travellers since Covid hit. “This worries us. An increase in road traffic is not sustainable,” added Vázquez. 

Not everyone agrees with the new fees

Not everyone is in favour of the new proposal, however.

Spokesperson for left-wing Unidas Podemos Pablo Echenique said: “Let it be clear, we will not support any measure that makes working people pay.

Either they remain free, or those with low to medium incomes, carriers and other professionals will be exempt from payments”.

Spain’s right-wing Popular Party (PP) has also attacked the government’s proposal and has described this measure as a “new fiscal hack”. 

The PP senator Rafael Hernando has indicated that the new toll on the highways “is another of the new impositions that the government is introducing to squeeze more out of Spaniards”.


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