Spain’s roads face bumpy ride as budget shrinks to historic low

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Motorbike view of Spanish roads.

IF you have experienced a certain feeling in your bones, or rather a bone-jarring feeling, of late on Spanish highways then it may be due to a thirty-year investment low in road-works and improvements.  

At present spending on the nation’s roads stands at a miserly 0.4 per cent of GDP, a level last seen in 1986, and symptomatic of a dramatic decline in investment, estimated to have dropped by around 85 per cent on new roads and 59 per cent on repairs since the halcyon days of 2007.

While spending has been quietly falling since the recession, in April the ministry of public works announced that €600 million would be slashed from funds earmarked for road improvements, reducing the allocated roads budget to roughly €2 billion, the lowest level even in absolute terms for twenty years.

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With Spain financially strapped and under pressure from Brussels to reduce spending in exchange for being let off the hook over its growing budget deficit, the roads are unfortunately being given the short straw.

Within the overall transport budget, the railways are being heavily protected, with the burden of cuts almost entirely shifted to roads, because the government is receiving special European funding for investing in superior rail networks, which it doesn’t want to jeopardise.

Spain has already benefitted immensely from EU funding and enjoys a modern road infrastructure courtesy of this financial backing, but risks undermining the project by cutting maintenance investment, favouring short-term results over a long-term strategy.

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