As of next Wednesday, September 1, Catalonia will no longer have tolls on state-run expressways, but they will persist explicitly or implicitly in a dozen concessions that fall under the jurisdiction of the Generalitat of Catalonia.
The Spanish Government must decide by 2024 which model it applies to guarantee the maintenance of high capacity state roads, and in this context, the Generalitat of Catalonia argues that Catalans have been paying for “too many” years on the roads and, to standardize the model national decision, the State should rescue the four explicit tolls that remain in Catalonia, linked to roads with tunnels and whose contracts expire between 2036 and 2039 despite the fact that they are the responsibility of the Generalitat. The bill for this rescue would be 1,500 million euros, according to the Catalan vice president, Jordi Puigneró.
The also Minister of Digital Policies and Territory claims that this amount is “only 10% of the annual fiscal deficit that Catalonia suffers, without which in two months we could solve [the rescue] quickly”, and less than half the cost of rescue the Madrid radio stations, which are around 4,000 million.
If the Government’s request is added to the rescue of the nine Catalan expressways with a shadow toll concession, the bill would rise by 1,700 million, to a total of 3,200 million, although the Generalitat points out that in that case there is other alternatives to the rescue, since the shadow toll model is based on the traffic of vehicles that pass through these roads and mixed formulas could be applied to accommodate it to the new pay-per-use model advocated by the European Union.
The current Catalan Executive has cooled down its defense of the vignette as a flat rate system to pay for the conservation of high-capacity roads, compared to its wishful thinking by the previous Government . Now they appeal to European premises of payment for use and that whoever pollutes the most pays more, and they rule out proposing a model for Catalonia while they ignore the state proposal, to avoid a “comparative offense” between territories. Until now Catalonia had a greater weight of payment methods than the national average, and Puigneró claims that this has been “one more form of looting” that “has ended and will not be repeated.”
And it is that this September 1 barriers are raised in four concessions that have the bulk of their route in Catalonia: the AP-7 between the border with France and Vilaseca (Tarragona), the AP-2 between Zaragoza and El Vendrell (Tarragona) , the C-32 between Montgat and Blanes, and the C-33 between Barcelona and Montmeló. The first two, from Acesa, will go to the State, while the other two, from Invicat, will be the responsibility of the Generalitat.
In any case, the regional administration aspires to control all Catalan infrastructures, and for this reason Puigneró demanded on August 2 to the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, the transfer of the AP-2 and the AP-7 for a management “of proximity and more effective “, although there is no answer at the moment. Then, the leading role was taken by the agreement for the expansion of the El Prat Airport.
While the new road model is being decided, the Generalitat’s Budgets will assume the dismantling of tolls (7.5 million) and the conservation of the C-32 and C-33 (6 million per year plus 15 every five years for resurfacing) . The impact on the accounts will be almost neutral, since up to 15 million annual bonuses will be saved on missing tolls.
120 million for the Maresme
One of the toll road concessions that end on Tuesday is the oldest toll road in Spain, the current C-32 in Maresme (Barcelona), and its gratuity will entail important changes in mobility in the area, with the N -II as the main beneficiary of the decongestion of traffic, according to the forecasts of the Generalitat.
To adapt the local road network to the new scenario, the Government plans to invest 120 million euros between 2022 and 2026 to improve the connectivity of the C-32 with six new accesses and the improvement of another two -according to preliminary studies-, as well as to turn the N-II into a more urban road, integrated into the coastal municipalities it crosses, especially in Baix Maresme, closer to Barcelona, with plans already underway that will be agreed with the municipalities.
To finance these plans, the Catalan Administration plans to remind the Government of the 400 million that, in 2008, the State agreed to invest in the doubling of the N-II, a work that was not finally carried out.
For now, the first actions will be the elimination of the trunk toll structures of the C-32, which will disappear in a period of a month and a half. They will also do it on the C-33 before the end of the year.