Spain is making plans to charge drivers to use all public highways by 2024 with the introduction of tolls.
The move is the first step to make drivers pay for the use of the roads and compensate for traffic pollution while at the same time adhering to the EU’s principle of “polluters pay”.
The measure is just one of the conditions placed on Spain by the EU in order to receive up to €140 billion of European recovery funds to help the country navigate its way out of the pandemic.
Under the plans, drivers would have to pay to use the country’s network or autopistas (highways that charge a toll) and autovías (motorways that are currently free of charge) which cover around 12,000 kilometres.
Once implemented, the move would also signal the possibility that the charges would be extended further to other national and regional roads which take up 14,000 kilometres of the country's road network.
The Spanish government says that the maintenance of the network is continuing to increase and that the bill can no longer be assumed by the national budget.
It is thought that the transition to toll roads could take between two and three years, taking into account the necessary legislative changes as well as the logistic challenge of installing toll booths.
It comes as the region of Catalonia prepares to make a number of toll roads free to use including the AP-7 which runs between Tarragona and the French border and the AP-2 from Zaragoza and El Vendrell.
Charges have also been removed on the AP-4 and AP-1 toll roads recently after concessions expired.
Sources at the country’s Ministry of Transportation have said that the project would only target high-capacity roads and not local ones. They added that the move is a part of a wider plan to bring Spain into line with other EU states where the largest economies have extended tolls to many of their highways.
It is not known at this time how much the charge would be, however, some industry associations including the Infrastructure Maintenance Association (ACEX) and the Construction Company Industry (Seopan) suggest that a fee of between €0.03 to €0.05 per kilometre would be sufficient to cover the €8 billion annual maintenance budget. Heavy goods vehicles could have to pay as much as €0.14 per kilometre.
Based on €0.04 per kilometre, a motorist from Madrid travelling to Burgos would have to pay around €9, with a trip to Zaragoza setting them back €12. The charge would then increase further to €14 to travel to Valencia, €15 to Córdoba, €16 to Badajoz and €22 to reach A Coruña.