Spain plans to turn highways into toll roads in 2024

Madrid pledge in exchange for EU funds comes as Catalonia prepares to reduce number of tolls

A toll at the AP-7 highway in Catalonia (by Roger Segura)
A toll at the AP-7 highway in Catalonia (by Roger Segura) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 5, 2021 07:13 PM

Spain plans to turn all public-managed highways into toll roads in 2024, as a first step to make drivers pay for the use of roads and compensate for traffic pollution.

The measure is one of the conditions that EU authorities demand from the member state in order to receive European recovery funds.

Spain’s road network is among Europe’s largest, stretching over 26,466 kilometers, including 12,000 from high-capacity roads, such as highways.

The Spanish government says that the cost of maintaining such a network is increasing and can no longer be assumed by the public budget.

Authorities in Madrid estimate that turning highways into toll roads will take from two to three years, entailing both legislative changes and the logistic challenge of installing toll booths in the highway network.

The Socialist-led government anticipates social backlash against the measure, which was coincidentally announced a day after suffering a defeat in a regional election in Madrid, and plans to launch campaigns to raise awareness among the population.

The decision from the Spanish government comes as Catalonia prepares to lift tolls from a series of highways, including the AP-7 stretching from Tarragona to the French border, and the AP-2 from Zaragoza and El Vendrell.