General view of the A-3 as it passes through Rivas Vaciamadrid (Madrid), last Saturday.
General view of the A-3 as it passes through Rivas Vaciamadrid (Madrid), last Saturday.FERNANDO VILLAR (EFE)

The incorporation of new kilometers to the public road network and the conservation deficit inherited from the previous Government will cause the State to spend more than ever on maintaining its road network in 2022. The Budget bill allocates 1,371 million euros to this end, the highest figure in history, above the 1,330 million that were spent in 2009. Nothing is collected by the public accounts, however, about future tolls in the highways that the Government promised with Brussels to implement in 2024.

The figure represents more than half of the 2.463 million that will be invested in roads. Conservation will take 56% of that amount and the development of new infrastructures, the remaining 44%. In the presentation of the budgets that depend on her department, the Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez, defended this Thursday that this amount “allows to mitigate, with greater determination and impulse than ever, the conservation deficit.”

In the 2018 Budgets, only 786 million were reserved for maintenance (the lowest figure in more than ten years), with the aggravation that these accounts were later extended into 2019 and 2020. For 2021, with the extraordinary boost investor contributed by the European recovery funds, the figure took a considerable jump to 1,240 million and next year it will increase by 11%.

At the same time, in those years the State has incorporated more than 1,000 kilometers of highways by not renewing the toll road concessions. Since the arrival of Pedro Sánchez to La Moncloa in June 2018, the section of the AP-1 between Burgos and Armiñón (November 2018), the section of the AP-7 between Alicante and Tarragona (January 2020), the AP-4 between Seville and Cádiz (also in January 2020), the AP-2 between Zaragoza and El Vendrell (August 2021) and another on the AP-7 between Tarragona and La Junquera (August 2021). Together they total 1,029 kilometers whose maintenance now depends on the public purse.

In contrast to this increase in allocations for highways, no clue is given by the Budgets about the Government’s intention, expressed to Brussels, to implement some system of charging for the use of these and other highways as of 2024. In the reform plans sent to Europe to receive aid for the coronavirus, the Executive spoke of a “payment mechanism” for both cars and trucks that would help balance public accounts. This system would apply in principle to the 12,000 kilometers of high-capacity roads that are part of the State Highway Network, although it could be extended to other similar roads that depend on the autonomous communities (about 5,000 kilometers).

This is a long-standing claim from the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda (formerly called Development). Already in 2018, with the PP in the Government, a study was commissioned to Ineco, the public engineering company, to study the feasibility of the measure. Knowledgeable sources of the current project told EL PAÍS that the intention is to obtain an annual collection of about 1,500 million, which in view of the current figures, would be more than enough for the maintenance of all Spanish roads. The 2022 accounts do cite the tolls to indicate that the release and discount of some sections will cost 92 million next year, which includes rate reductions due to improvement works and road safety.

Apart from the highways, the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda has presented this Thursday a global budget that, in its case, comprises 19,328 million, of which 16,286 million are considered investment and the rest current expenses. It represents an increase of 15% compared to last year and 80% compared to the budgets carried over from 2020, one more effect of the millionaire European aid. Of the 6,505 million that will come from the recovery plan, just over 4,000 will be allocated to sustainable mobility and almost 2,000 million to housing rehabilitation and 500 million to the construction of sustainable housing for social rent.

Housing policies take 3,290 million, the highest figure in history, due to the extraordinary boost to rehabilitation that comes from Europe. But 663 million are also reserved for the plan to expand the park of sustainable rentals. The young bond, which, according to the minister, will be ready by January 1, 2022, will absorb 200 million to give monthly aid of 250 euros to people between 18 and 35 years of age who live in rent and prove income from work of less than 23,726 euros. yearly. The investment in railways will take 6,743 million, of which 2,833 million are reserved for the conventional and commuter network. More than 800 million are reserved for air transport, and more than 1,000 for maritime. The ministry estimates that the investments it will make next year will help create up to 350,000 jobs.

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