The Privatisation and Nationalisation of European Roads

The Privatisation and Nationalisation of European Roads

Success and Failure in Public–Private Partnerships

Daniel Albalate

This distinctive and timely book examines the current state and trends in the ownership, management and financing of European high capacity roads. Offering an analysis of three pioneer countries in road privatization, Spain, France and Italy, from their origins to their recent developments, it evaluates how the design of privatisation policies may lead to their success or failure.

Chapter 1: European roads: origins and models of the past

Daniel Albalate

Subjects: environment, transport, politics and public policy, european politics and policy, public policy, urban and regional studies, transport


Ancient Roman roads can be considered as the precursors of modern highways. As argued by Lay (1992), road-making efforts prior to the Romans pale into insignificance beside their tunnels, bridges and roads, with the only exception those of the Chinese. The Roman road system of more than 80 000 km - 372 different roads during the administration of Diocletian - extended across Europe from the fourth century BC and played a crucial role in the development of the Roman Empire. As pointed out by Ralph Harrington (1998), the Roman road was simultaneously military hardware, political symbol, cultural conduit and economic infrastructure. Indeed, the development of the road network in the fourth, third and second centuries BC was crucial in guaranteeing Roman hegemony that would result in the strength of the Roman Empire as we know it today (Laurence, 1999). According to Von Hagen (1967), roads made Rome a mobile civilisation with systematic control of the world through their roadways. This was possible because of their extensive network throughout the Continent with straight links and well-engineered roads. The first large (even monumental) project, the Via Apia, secured connection between Rome and Campania, and was a demonstration of the power, innovation and leadership of the Romans to their allied communities. The Via Apia was known as the Queen of all Roman roads and became a key infrastructure as well as a symbol of the Roman Republic by connecting Rome to the commercial port of Brindisi.

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