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

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Spanish government considering introducing tolls on 'Autovia' network

The Spanish government is considering the introduction of toll-fees on the currently free to use Autovia motorway network; currently tolls are charged only on the smaller Autopista network. The way of collecting the new toll-fees is still being considered, as the practically of construction toll-booths (and employing the people to staff them) is considered questionnable. The Autovia network comprises a network of about 15,600 kilometers of roadway, whereas the Autopista network comprises about 3,300 kilometers of highway.

The tariffs being considered would be lower than those currently applying on Autopistas and for the present the government wishes to exempt lorries/trucks from payment, for fear that doing so would only lead to an increase in consumer prices, so the proposed fees would apply only to 'light vehicles', i.e. cars. This means that the government does not wish, at least for the present, to introduce the Eurovignette system envisaged by the EU, which would apply to commercial vehicles; one important aspect of the directive is also that it forbids discrimination against foreign drivers by the introduction of time-based systems, favouring instead distance-based systems. The objective of the new system is said to be to provide funds to allow the motorway network to be maintained and not deteriorate, which seems reasonable to me, but what does not seem to me to be reasonable is that the exempt category of vehicles (commercial lorries and trucks) is undoubtedly the one that causes the most wear and tear on road surfaces, so what I suppose is effectively being envisaged is that private motorists would 'subsidise' commercial traffic as a trade-off for commercial users not bumping up freight costs and probably the eventual retail cost of the goods being transported.

Although the planning is apparently at quite an advanced stage, it is likely it could not be introduced for at least a year, because of the possible need to install 'tagging' devices along the Autovia network to scan vehicles as they pass by, or by requiring motorists to purchase stickers/badges at tobacconists or other retail outlets for motorway use. One simpler system being considered is to incorporate the toll-fee in fuel prices, but this would effectively (it seems to me) mean charging motorists to use all roads of any category, not just motorways. Whatever solution is eventually chosen, the cost of motoring is going to increase as a result.

Sources:
- TVE 1 morning news bulletin
- Conducir por autovía ya no será gratis
- El Gobierno baraja cobrar 'peajes blandos' en las autovías
- El Gobierno podría poner un 'peaje blando' en las autovías destinado a conservación
- these are just a small selection of the news media reporting this proposed change.

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