Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain
in the Autumn for a month or so

'Fair and softly goes far' - Miguel de Cervantes

Saturday, 22 August 2009

AP7 Cartagena-Vera branded as 'ghost highway'

(Please see UPDATE at end)

Traffic volumes on the Cartagena-Vera extension of the AP7 motorway have fallen far short of expectations during its first two plus years of operation, largely attributed to the fact that for almost the whole of its length it is a toll road (98 of 114 Km length) and exacerbated by the recession which has accelerated the deterioration in usage levels in the last year.

A few statistics taken from the linked article illustrate the extent of the problem:
- expected daily vehicle traffic (IMD) predicted by the Ministry of Transport was 7,000 when it opened in March 2007;
- maximum actual usage during summer months has been 3,000 IMD, dropping off significantly at other times to about 2,000 IMD;
- during the first full year of operation the IMD was 2,419;
- the trend in usage is downward as the 2nd-quarter statistics for the three years 2007 (2,112 IMD), 2008 (2,346 IMD) and 2009 (2,063 IMD) illustrate;
- usage in the first 6 months of 2009 has dropped by 17 per cent when compared to the same period of 2008;
- original estimates were that in 30 years the usage levels would reach 30,000 IMD.

Why? Well, there are many reasons and the recession that has hit the world, and Spain in particular, in the last 18 months has certainly not helped. However the whole project to construct this motorway was even at its planning stage considered 'speculative'. According to the article the journey time from Cartagena to Vera is only 20 minutes less using the AP7 than the alternative toll-free route via the A-30 then the new RM-2 Cartagena-Alhama highway before joining the old A7 toll-free motorway; the toll road costs 12.35 Euros during the day for a car, 4.20 Euros at night. I know from my own experience that the journey time between Murcia-San Javier (MJV) airport and the Mazarron Country Club or Camposol area is only 10 minutes less if you use the AP-7 toll road, rather than the alternatives using motorway standard roads for the whole distance taking advantage of the new RM-2, RM-23 and RM-3 regional motorways. Using the toll road during the day-tariff period costs 5.10 Euros for the privilege of saving 10 minutes in other words.

A few other statistics illustrate the extent of the problem:
- the old N-332 highway (Cartagena-Águilas) has usage of upto 15,827 IMD at its busiest parts around Mazarrón, with usage of over 4,000 IMD in the quieter areas during 2008, according to government data;
- new motorway standard highways linking to the old A7 coastal motorway greatly exceed traffic along the new toll road - RM-3 between Mazarrón and Totana (13,079 IMD), RM-23 Alhama to Mazarrón link motorway (7,469 IMD) and RM-2 motorway between Cartagena and Alhama (7,304 IMD).

Having written this rather depressing article, I must point out that large stretches of the new AP7 Cartagena-Vera motorway pass through very beautiful countryside and because it is so little used and is well-designed and engineered, it is a very fast and relaxing road to travel on, as I have mentioned here and here for example.

UPDATE (Monday, 23AUG2010 10.34 BST) Traffic using this stretch of toll motorway has increased by about 9 per cent in the first 5 months of 2010, when compared with the same period of 2009 - see more here.

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