How do you pay for motorways?
In August, after 52 years operating, Catalonia has abolished 556 kilometres of tolls, and the question now is: How do we pay for their maintenance? We are explaining to you how much has been collected by Catalan roads and how other European countries maintain their road networks.
From now on, the Spanish state will have to maintain most of the Catalan road network, which costs 60,000 euros per kilometre, some 33 million euros per year. How to do it has not an easy answer. Although tolls in Catalonia have produced extraordinary revenues, generating 537 million euros a year, they have benefited concessionaires and shareholders more than they had invested. On the other hand, it has financed 132 municipalities through the Property Tax (IBI). Despite this, Spain is at the bottom of European countries in terms of both investment and revenue collection.
In fact, the Spanish state does not have a clear model for maintaining its roads, most of which are free for users, a fact that has left an 8 billion euro hole in the public coffers. To reverse this deficit, the Spanish government has proposed tolls on motorways and a Pay-As-You-Go system for high-capacity roads, as part of a post-covid recovery plan with European funds.
Portugal, the mirror in which to reflect itself
Such a proposal is inspired by the Portuguese model, which has an additional charging system that includes motorways. In Portugal, as in Poland, vehicles must be registered and are charged by means of camera arches installed on the roads.
Another payment model is the one used in many Central European countries, such as Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary, with the so-called vignette system, in which the driver pays a fixed price for driving on the roads. In the Austrian case, for example, it is 80 euros per year. Catalonia wanted to implement this model, but has finally agreed to share the same system as the entire Spanish road network.
France, in turn, has a mixed model similar to the one currently in place in Spain and, in a completely opposite way, Italy has almost all of its roads managed by private toll companies. On the other hand, in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, the entire road network is free and financed by state budgets, with small exceptions, such as heavy goods vehicles, which must pay to circulate.
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