THREE people have suffered minor injuries after a passenger ferry and a private yacht collided in the sea north of Gran Canaria at about 16.30 this afternoon (Thursday). The fast ferry, part of the Naviera Armas fleet,...
AP-1 motorway first to go toll-free: No charges after end of November
THE FIRST of Spain's toll motorways to become free of charge will be the AP-1, starting on December 1 this year, confirms minister of public works José Luis Ábalos.
Once the toll franchise expires at the end of this month, the motorway between the cathedral city of Burgos in the centre-northern region of Castilla y León and the town of Armiñón in the Basque province of Álava – the capital of which is Vitoria-Gasteiz – will no longer carry a fee.
An idea originally floated by the previous national government, led by the right-wing PP until June, scrapping tolls on motorways was never a plan set in stone, although the then ministry of public works was seriously considering it.
Now, the left-wing socialist government which gained power in June has committed to following through with the promise, which will not only save money for regular travellers but also cut gridlocks and air pollution through small towns and on secondary roads, since lorries and cars will not have to use them to avoid the tolls.
The next two to go will be the AP-4 between Sevilla and Cádiz, and the AP-7 down the east coast.
Starting at the French border at the top of the province of Girona and continuing as far as Cartagena (Murcia), the AP-7 turns into the toll-free A-7 intermittently – between Sagunto, on the Valencia-Castellón province border, and Silla, just south of Valencia, then from San Juan in the south of Alicante province onwards, although if continuing from the latter south along the coast towards Murcia rather than inland towards the Costa del Sol, the AP-7 toll route continues as far as Cartagena.
North of Sagunto, the motorway continues as a toll road as far as Martorell (Barcelona province), although the franchise coming up for renewal is the stretch from Tarragona, in the south of Catalunya, to Sagunto and then from Silla to San Juan.
Both these and the AP-4 expire on December 31, 2019, meaning from New Year's Day in 2020, they will be free of charge.
The news is welcomed by town councils in the Comunidad Valenciana especially, since the AP-7 is the only major highway down the coast that does not cut through any towns and, from Cullera (central Valencia province) to Benidorm (central Alicante province) the only non-single carriageway road.
But Ábalos has warned that some form of financial compensation may be needed, since at present, it is the tolls which fund motorway maintenance.
He has hinted that 'residents' may be able to use the motorways for free, but 'tourists and businesses', namely those whose activity involves road transport of goods, may face some sort of fee, since most of the wear and tear on the highways is caused by heavy vehicles.
Still, at present, and in the absence of any changes, the ministry is speaking of Spain's motorway network as being the only transport infrastructure which will be free of charge to use – ports, airports and train lines are all subject to taxes in some form.
Plenty of other motorways in Spain attract tolls along various stretches, and each one with a toll franchise that expires before the next general elections will not be renewed, but will become free of charge, Ábalos says.
If the socialists are elected back into government, they will continue allowing toll franchises to lapse for as long as they are in power.
Ábalos has called for a Parliamentary sub-commission to be set up and for all political parties to 'reflect' on the 'sustainability' of Spain's road networks, particularly motorways and major trunk roads.
He says main highways have continued to grow in number and length, currently totalling 20,000 kilometres across the country, but the budget for maintenance has gradually been shrinking.
And some parts of Spain suffer financial 'penalties', such as tolls and taxes to cover road repairs, whilst others do not, which 'constitutes discrimination', Ábalos argues.
He wants the different political parties to work on a 'fair and equal model' to fund highways maintenance, but without resorting to charging toll fees.
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