AP-7, "saturated": Catalan Government announces additional lanes, more tow trucks and restrictions on lorries

Catalan minister Elena asks State to make "promised investments" and pay the €6m the new measures will cost

3 min
The AP-7 in Catellbisbal

BarcelonaSince tolls were removed on the AP-7, 40% more vehicles use this motorway. According Catalan Home Affairs minister Joan Ignasi Elena, the AP-7 "has a saturation problem" that is not exclusive to weekends because the number of hours and kilometres of queues is "practically the same" every day. For this reason, the Government has announced new measures after the latest traffic jams, the Government has announced new measures: additional lanes on the motorway, more tow trucks to remove vehicles which have suffered an accident and restricting lorry traffic. Elena has warned that in some sections the AP-7 has more vehicles than the road can absorb and has asked the State to make "the promised investments", in addition to reversing the "decades of neglect of commuter trains".

This year 14 people have lost their lives in accidents on the AP-7: they are almost 20% of the 74 fatalities this year on Catalan roads. In the same period in 2019, the year before covid, four people died on the AP-7 and 75 on all roads in Catalonia. The number of victims, then, has skyrocketed on the toll-free highway, where half are people being run over and five are from ramming collisions – one vehicle rear-ending another. Elena has attributed this increase in fatalities on the AP-7 to the growth in the number of vehicles that now use it, which is at or has already exceeded its maximum capacity. The minister gave examples: 40% more vehicles circulate through Montmeló than can be absorbed by the road and 55% above the maximum through Vilafranca.

Despite this, Elena has assured that the number of traffic jams on weekends "is lower" compared to 2019, although he admitted that "there is a problem". Thus, to improve circulation, the Department of Home Affairs' weekend plan is for additional lanes from L'Hospitalet de l'Infant to Amposta on the AP-7 (it will be 40 km long), from Llavaneres to Montgat on the C-32 and, also on the AP-7, from Parets del Vallès to Sant Celoni, although in this case it will come into operation after the Sant Joan long weekend (24-26 June) because some signs need to be changed first, which according to Elena could "help solve" the queues in La Roca.

For the Sant Joan weekend a system of tow trucks "at strategic points" of the AP-7 will be rolled out "to ensure maximum speed in removing vehicles". This service existed when the highway had tolls because the concessionaire was obliged to have them, Elena explained, who argued that it has been brought back because another problem of the AP-7 is the time it takes for two trucks to remove vehicles.

As for lorries, from Sant Joan and during the whole summer they will not be allowed to circulate on Saturdays between 10 am and 2 pm nor on Sundays between 5 pm and 10 pm. Elena recalled this restriction was applied "for years", although it will now be extended: on Fridays or the days before a public holiday, from 5 p.m. onwards, trucks will have to drive on the right-hand lane, and will not be allowed to overtake nor exceed 80 km/h in the central and southern section of the AP-7.

Variable speed in the future

Apart from the measures that Home Affairs will implement, Elena has advanced other ideas that they want to apply. The Servei Català de Trànsit plans to tender a variable speed system for the C-58, the central and northern section of the AP-7 and the C-33. According to the minister, the Government has competences to be able to introduce the variable speed but not to change the maximum speed, which is also another proposal Home Affairs has made, which asks to reduce to 110 km/h or 100 km/h the maximum speed on some sections of the AP-7. Even so, Elena has anticipated that it does not seem that the State is planning to do roll out this measure.

Elena assured that the plan for the motorway has a cost of €6.5m, which he considers the Spanish government would have to pay because it is the owner of the road. Elena has criticised that the ministry improvised when tolls came to an end. In addition, he reproached the State for the "structural deficiencies" on roads that connect with the AP-7, which should allow "traffic to be diverted from one road to the other", as well as "chronic deficiencies" on commuter trains, "which are the only alternative".