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 7: Spain

Daniel Albalate

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


The first serious attempt at providing Spain with a motorway network was made in 1928, under the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. Following the example set by Mussolini's Fascist government in Italy (as Bel, 2012, has argued), the Spanish executive authorised its Ministry of Public Works to grant private concessions for the construction and operation of roads along those corridors that connected Madrid to various strategic cities in the periphery, including Valencia (expected to become Madrid's port on the Mediterranean seaboard), Irun (so as to connect Madrid to the south of France) and Oviedo and Gijon (providing a tourist gateway to the Cantabrian coast and access to Madrid's port on the northern seaboard). The model proposed in this ambitious project foresaw the mixed financing of the infrastructure, with government subsidies being used to supplement the revenue collected from tolls charged to users. However, the project remained just that, as the country's ordinary road network was still far from complete and the demand remained insufficient to support infrastructure funding of the dimension envisaged. Indeed it would have required an unrealistically large commitment from the public Treasury in the form of grants. Later, in 1953, also under a military dictatorship (this time led by General Franco), the government introduced the first legislation (Law 26/1953 on Toll Road Construction) permitting private sector participation in the development of Spain's infrastructure.

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