Spain's transport minister, Raquel Sánchez, speaking on Tuesday. | J .J. Guillen


Spain's transport minister, Raquel Sánchez, has announced that the Spanish government will present its proposal "in a few months" to implement payment systems for high-capacity roads as from 2024. Speaking after Tuesday's cabinet meeting, Sánchez said that studies are already being carried out to determine which system will be implemented. She stressed that there will be "fair, rigorous and sustainable" pricing.

Sergio Vázquez, the government's secretary general for infrastructure, asked that this payment should not be referred to as a toll. Analysis is to be made of the "most appropriate mechanism and how to price it". This is a process that will entail significant technological development and legal changes. In essence, though, he explained that those who use roads the most should contribute most to the cost of maintaining roads. For 2021, 1,400 million euros have been allocated to road maintenance.

"We would be irresponsible if we did not propose this reform," Vázquez stressed. The aims are to ensure that roads are in good condition and that there is also an "environmentally sustainable transport system".

Much opposition was raised when the previous transport minister, José Luis Ábalos, aired the idea a few months ago. But the government has given its commitment to Brussels to adopt a new system of 'pay per use' on the roads from 2024. This is within the framework of all the European funds that Spain is to receive for economic recovery from the pandemic.

Criticism was particularly fierce in Mallorca, where the Council of Mallorca and the Balearic government made a point of stressing that roads would be free. This was in the aftermath of the elimination of the Soller Tunnel toll.

But Vázquez insists that "the model that our entire road network should be free is not something that happens in Europe" and so he firmly defends the need to undertake a reform that introduces pricing.