Government rethinking the end of tolls on selected motorways
Reports in some newspapers stating that tolls will be abolished on the AP7 motorway when the current concession ends in 2019 are unfortunately misleading.
We know that despite the abstention of the Partido Popular, the Valencian Parliament voted in favour of their abolition, but it now seems that the vote was only a recommendation to central government, which remains responsible for the operation of such roads in Spain. Unfortunately the Valencian Parliament does not have the authority to make decisions relating to the removal of motorway tolls.
In a statement issued last week, the Ministry of Fomento (Public Works and Development) says that it does not know what it will do with the AP-7, the Mediterranean Highway, once the concession ends, stating that all options remain open.
The Alicante Deputy Herick Campos said “Road tolls have consequences on the mobility of residents and causes a loss of competitiveness of companies, industry, cooperatives and the tourism sector compared to other communities which operate with free highways,” but members of the Hotel Business Association of Benidorm and the Costa Blanca (Hosbec), have said that they want to retain the tolls.
Meanwhile the Hosbec president Antoni Mayor says that the abolition of the toll would cause the “densification of traffic” and a loss of quality in the only road that provides rapid access to the Alicante coast. He says that the motorway is regularly used by French, Swiss, Belgian, Dutch and even British tourists who travel from their countries by car and bus. He insists that if the tolls were removed “The AP-7 would be filled with trucks and heavy vehicles, and in areas such as those between Elche and Murcia, where accidents continually cause 30-kilometer tailbacks, the consequences could be devastating to the local economy. As such Hosbec is in favor of the retention of tolls.”
In a parliamentary response to seven Socialist deputies, on February 23, the Executive statement is extremely ambiguous: “The Government does not currently plan to proceed with the extension of the concession contract of the AP-7 when the concession term ends The forecast is that, when it reaches its end, it will revert to the General State Administration, which will then decide the form of management of the highway.”
So, after announcing that the motorway would be transformed into a road without tolls, the Ministry of Development now says that at this time all options remain open.
Meanwhile, last Sunday, a Catalan group calling itself the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) told drivers in the north-eastern Spanish region to refuse to pay toll charges on their journeys back home at the end of the Easter break. Dozens of activists then descended on toll booths, dismantling the barriers and allowing cars to pass for free.
However the campaign was not in protest at motorway tolls but against the jailing of pro-Catalan independence leaders, many of whom are still being held in custody.