AFTER 20 years the Soller tunnel will finally be made free for drivers. From September 1 the controversial toll, relatively the most expensive in Spain, will no longer be charged.
The decision is being described as the righting of an ‘historic injustice’ for the people of Escora, Deia, Fornalutx and Soller. Thousands of working men and women have been forced to pay the €5 tax simply to get to work, many of them twice a day, although subsidies were recently introduced.
Mallorca Council had previously intimated they would lift the toll before the high season began. President Miquel Ensenyat said the council will pay Globalvia, the concessionaire, €15.4 million in a one-off payment to cancel the toll.
With five years remaining on the contract, the company is seeking compensation of €33 million, more than double the figure offered. However much is paid, the taxpayer will bear the brunt of the cost. Considering its relatively short length the tunnel is Spain’s most expensive toll road.
The Soller tunnel, opened in 1997, was immediately the subject of one of Mallorca’s greatest corruption cases. Almost 10,000 vehicles pass through each day and the tunnel needs safety improvements estimated to cost millions of euros.
By making the payment the Council hopes to ensure the tunnel doesn’t fall into private hands once the contract expires. But the political landscape will look very different in five years time and millions in additional costs can certainly be expected.