Why scrap the toll?

Just under two years ago, the Junta de Andalucía, then still governed by the Socialist Party, launched its Plan de Ordenación Territorial for the Costa del Sol, which proposed scrapping the toll on the AP7. That idea was received with mockery and sarcasm among the ranks of the Partido Popular and ridiculed by the then Public Works minister in Mariano Rajoy's PP government, Íñigo de la Serna, whose department rejected the proposal outright.

Now it is the Partido Popular, via the Malaga provincial authority (Diputación), that is demanding that the toll be lifted. It's by no means a coincidence that it's never been the party in whose hands lie the ability and the power to scrap the toll that suggests the idea.

It would be good to know how much it costs. Among the many hurdles that lie ahead of the Costa del Sol - which include managing population growth without losing quality of living, tackling the desertification process, guaranteeing the water supply, improving the quality of the beaches, adapting the tourism model to face new challenges, growing while respecting the environment - mobility is one of the most important.

A model that obliges both residents and tourists to make all their daily journeys in a private vehicle is not sustainable in the mid-term. With or without a toll. What to do with the AP7 and its ludicrous prices - especially in the six months when there is most traffic, when you pay more than 41 cents per kilometre - is part of an essential debate.

However the proposal made by itself, without questioning the complete mobility picture, can provide some entertaining political controversy, especially with elections round the corner, but little more.

Some think that the traffic problems can be solved by removing obstacles or adding lanes, but that is likely to encourage even more private vehicles to use the roads. In other words, going in completely the opposite direction to where we should be heading.

We can propose all the sticking-plaster solutions we can think of, but the answer to the mobility issues on the Costa del Sol lies inevitably with a public transport system, including a train, that doesn't force tourists to hire a car to get around during their holidays, that doesn't force cleaners nd waiters to go to work every day in private cars.

If to make way for a train, a metro or a tram it's necessary to use part of the current dual carriageway and to do that they have to make the toll motorway free, then it'll have to be done. But just to scrap the toll without a wider plan won't solve anything.