Road to nowhere

LAST UPDATED: 14 Jun, 2013 @ 18:38
Road to nowhere

THOUSANDS of kilometres of toll roads are under threat of closure as the companies that own them teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.

Thanks to the country’s recession, the stream of paying drivers has now slowed to a trickle.

Like the unsustainable housing bubble and the speculation-fueled phantom airports, the folly of Spain’s road-building boom is now too being laid bare in vast stretches of under-used tarmac.

“It’s no surprise, we built thousands of kilometres of motorways on routes that did not have the traffic to justify them,” explained Paco Segura, a transport specialist at Ecologists in Action.

“There has not just been a real estate bubble, but also one in infrastructure, in airports and in motorways.”

His comments come after highway company Accesos de Madrid, admitted two roads Radial 3 and Radial 5 are in danger of shutting.

“Right now we can’t meet our debt repayments. We are in the hands of the judge,” admitted director Jose Antonio Lopez. “Where there were supposed to be 35,000 vehicles a day, there are 10,000.”

His company is not the first, with the bosses of the Madrid to Toledo toll road going into receivership last May and five other companies following suit since.

It is anything but a surprise, says Segura, who claims the traffic between Madrid and the city of Toledo, about 80km away, receives 11% of the traffic its developers expected.

“Nearly all the motorways going bust are getting less than 40% of the traffic they planned for when they were built,” he said.

Boss of Accesos de Madrid agrees: “Too much infrastructure was built, no doubt about it. Much of it turned out to be no use.”

Indeed, in the first quarter of 2012, with Spain in recession, motorway traffic fell by 8.2% from a year earlier, hitting its lowest level since 1998, the transport ministry said.

Lopez added: “It has happened with the motorways, it has happened with the airports. Sooner or later we will find it is also happening with the high-speed trains.”


  1. The toll companies deserve to go bankrupt as the price is ridiculous. One stretch of the A7 Marbella way just went up from 4.50 euros to over 7 euros last week.

  2. In all the years we’ve been going to the Costa Del Sol, we’ve only ever used the toll road once (by mistake when we took the wrong slip road!). We always use the coast road N340 to drive along the whole of the coast and have never had any problems. For the toll company to put the prices up in the high season will certainly put even more people off using them.

  3. When your’e losing customers the way to get them back is to offer a better service for less, why can’t Spanish companies cotton on to this concept.

  4. Hi Fred, I believe the increase last week is the seasonal one. The price always goes up in June and goes back to the lower winter tariff later in the year. Not sure of the dates between which the winter tariff operates but I know it is in place by the time I come back in October.


  5. Thank Lindsay. As someone who uses the toll regularly I’m only too aware of the summer rip-off price increase. The price needs to stay low if the toll company doesn’t want to go bankrupt, so bankruptcy here we come!

  6. Fred this was discussed on the Trip Advisor forum also. One person commented that the M6 toll road in the Birmingham area may well be in similar straights.


  7. ” LOl. This is the daddy of them all. In the last decade it has effortlessly overtaken “The cheque’s in the post” and “I love you” as the most-often-told lie in human history. Out loud? Really? And, to complicate things, people are now saying LOL out loud, which is especially banjaxing since you can’t simultaneously say “LOL” and laugh aloud unless you can laugh through your arse.”

    Source: “”

  8. Hopefully not all the toll roads will close … they’re a safe haven from all the riff-raff!
    Quite why they were ever “private” I’ll never know. Not everything can run on profit alone, and to think it can is just ridiculous.

  9. Surely they’d get more cash flow if all tolls were cheaper, and less cash if they force drivers off the roads with increased charges?

    simples! MEGA LOL!