Construction Giants in Spain Panic over Prospect of Losing one of their Biggest Rackets

Government gets ready to cave.

Spain is home to some of the world’s biggest names in the infrastructure business, but many of those firms could soon be deprived of one of their most lucrative sources of income: the domestic road concessions business. Multi-decade contracts for some of the country’s busiest toll roads, some built as far back as the late 1960s, are about to end. To the companies’ horror, the government has repeatedly stated that the tolls will be abolished once the contracts run their course.

This has prompted frantic lobbying efforts from Spain’s biggest construction lobby, Seopan. The group has urged the government to renew the toll program for the AP-1, which crosses a well-traveled section of Northern Spain and whose concession ends on November 30. The lobby argues that it would be wrong to force cash-strapped taxpayers to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of a road that is used frequently by non-Spanish drivers. As part of a road network that links up Spain’s two main territorial neighbors, France and Portugal, the motorway averages daily traffic of 20,000 vehicles, of which some 30% are estimated to be foreign.

Instead of forcing taxpayers to pay for the road’s maintenance, the government should draw up a new concession, Seopan helpfully suggests — one that would be slightly cheaper given the road’s initial construction costs were paid off long ago. That way, cash strapped taxpayers would be spared unnecessary additional expenses while one or more of Seopan’s members could continue to cream off guaranteed juicy profits from the tolls for many more years to come

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