Users of Spain's paid motorways, the peajes, will see increases of 7.5% taking effect from now on, following a government decision to reduce the subsidies granted to the motorway concessionaires and granting of a ministerial order authorising increased maximum levels for tollroad tariffs.
Amongst those affected will be the Mediterranean coastal road arterial route, the AP-7, which runs right down the Mediterranean coast.
The government have undertaken this measure as part of their efforts to bring their own budgets under control and by removing the subsidies paid to keep the tolls lower, will now force concessionaries to decide whether they themselves are willing to absorb the increase or whether they will implement the toll increases with immediate effect to guarantee their own financial stability.
The majority have indicated that they are in no position to absorb the loss of 7% themselves and will impose the increases.This will be further compounded by the VAT rises due to come into effect from 1st September, which will effectively increase the tolls on Spanish roads by 10%, a large amount for transport companies already castigated by the economic downturn to absorb.
Whether this will have the undesired effect of forcing more lorries back onto coastal roads, feed down into retail price increases, or render it more difficult for Spanish businesses to compete internationally due to higher transport costs remains to be seen.
Although the government says increases are necessary to ensure that Spain as a nation is able to move forward and bring its own deficit under control, the whole policy of cutting back on expenditure is naturally feeding down into all the businesses depending on the state for contracts and their own survival, amongst them those who are involved in the massive job of road maintenance and construction.
Last week Afesma, the association of asphalt manufacturers highlighted the question of how Spain will deal with a deteriorating road network if concessionaries are floundering in a state of , financial uncertainty and the state itself is in no position to invest the billions needed into ensuring that roads are maintained, highlighting the "perilous future" of the Spanish road system.
Government spending cuts in infrastructure have been brutal, and the association has highlighted the massive decline in purchases made from its members, reducing the amount spent on maintaining roads for the future. This inevitably has a direct impact on the solvency of businesses supplying the goods and services relating to road maintenance, and the job security of those working in the industry, as well as leading to a deterioration in the road network.
The result is what the association are calling an "asphalt black hole" of €6.2 billion, the accumulated lack of investment into maintaining the states road system.
Prior to 2008 the amount being spent on replacing road surfaces amounted to over €500 million a year, but since then, barely 40 million has been spent in the last four years, according to the spokesman for the Association, Juan José Potti, who was at pains to point out that this figure only relates to the resurfacing aspect of road maintenance and not to the other jobs which have to be done.
This has created, he says, a compounded under investment of 6.2 billion euros, leading to a deterioration at both national and local level.
Several areas of Spain he says, have an elevated quantity of roads which need more maintenance, Cantabria, Asturias, Aragón and Castilla León, with an above national average number of roads in poor condition. Fortunately for us, Murcia is amongst those which have a good level of surfaces, along with Madrid, Extremadura, Comunidad Valenciana, Castilla-La Mancha and western Andalucía .
The association are calling for a fixed percentage to be allocated to ensuring that roads are maintained to high levels now, ensuring that the level of carriageways nationally is maintained on an ongoing basis, " investing a euro today into conserving the roadways now will avoid the necessity of spending 25 within 6 years, " they say.
However, with many tollroad concessionaries struggling to remain solvent, money to invest into maintenance is in short supply, and short-term, motorists may be in for a bumpy ride.
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