In the world of concessions for infrastructure development, Spanish companies lead the international market. Six of the 10 top transportation concession companies are based in Spain, constructing and/or managing about 40 percent of all major transportation concessions in the world. Spanish companies are taking their knowledge and experience into an increasing number of markets each year. This is the third in an eight-part series highlighting new technologies in Spain and is produced by Technology Review, Inc.' s custom-publishing division in partnership with the Trade Commission of Spain.
According to Greek mythology, when the shadowy souls of the recently departed made their way to the shore of the river Styx, they faced Charon, the one with the power to transport them to the world beyond. If the soul paid a toll, Charon ferried it across. If not, it wandered between death and life for eternity.
This use of tolls so vividly described by the ancient Greeks has roots in the real world as well. Historians note the use of tolls in the ancient Middle East and Asia, and England charged tolls for roads and bridges in the Middle Ages. In Spain more than a century ago, there are numerous examples of the crown authorizing a private individual to develop a public work such as a bridge or a wharf and recuperating the costs from individuals using the service.
Since the advent of the automobile, however, many governments in both developed and developing countries have assumed the responsibility for public spaces such as roads. Tolls have persisted, but most of these have remained in the hands of local or national authorities.
Today, there is a move afoot for private companies to run, manage, even at times to own what are primarily public spaces. These are often done through Public Private Partnerships, and these models provide a method for governments to obtain much needed funds and for businesses to develop and invest in equally needed public infrastructure.
At the same time, advances in technology have allowed for a growing public acceptance of an increase in toll roads. The advent of electronic tolls, and even barrier-free toll roads, has created an ease of use that is contributing to the growth in tolls as a form of revenue for both public and private developers.
Due to the history of road development in Spain and the strength and experience of Spanish companies, these companies have assumed the lead in the global market for infrastructure concessions.