“We have bus concessions that are from the first half of the 20th century, which were granted when there were no autonomous communities, at the request of an interested party, who wanted to unite two towns and concessions were granted for 99 years or in perpetuity”. The Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda justifies the need to design a new road transport concession map, a proposal that is included in the new Sustainable Mobility Law.
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“Now we have a reality of concessions that is typical of the 20th century, very heterogeneous”, explained the Ministry in a meeting with the media. As an example, he cites a concession between Ayamonte and Santa Coloma de Gramanet, which has been operating for decades when, in reality, one between Huelva and Madrid or Huelva and Barcelona would make sense.
The main change in the new concession model is that there will be fewer contracts, fewer routes, with fewer municipalities with stops. Also, with cheaper prices and with the option of on-demand services. That is to say, that the buses -or another form of transport- would not always stop in a locality, only when there is a user who needs it; and with the transfer of mobility routes and services to the autonomous communities. These stops on demand, on the buses, are proposed for locations where between 500 and 1,000 travelers are reached per year.
At the moment, it is a first proposal for a concession map, which has to be approved in one year, although the concessions will be made in an additional period of two years; and in a consensual manner with the autonomous communities, with which a bilateral negotiation period is now opening. Therefore, the communities will have to assume with regional services those that the State stops providing, because it is, the Ministry points out, of regional competence. In this sense, the Government is working on possible compensation mechanisms for the services that the regional executives must assume.
This first proposal proposed by the Ministry of Transport reduces the number of tenders, of concession contracts, from 79 to 22 complete corridors. The number of routes is lowered from 966 to 510; and the number of municipalities with a stop is cut from 1,912 to 495.
In this way, the average population of a municipality with a stop would go from 14,900 to more than 51,000 inhabitants. At the same time, the average journey time will be reduced by 20 minutes and fares by 30%.
Transport assures that it is not about leaving empty Spain, the towns, without service, but about looking for new forms of mobility that do not necessarily involve having a bus service, but other options such as vehicles with fewer seats. “It is a model with a network conception, with nodes, coordination of schedules and, in the future, there will be a ticket unit, although we are not there yet,” acknowledge the aforementioned sources.
“There are buses that do not reach 25 seats and there are stops with less than 200 passengers a year,” justifies the Executive. “But there is not going to be any place in the emptied Spain that now has a bus service that in the future will no longer have a mobility service,” he emphasizes. “It can be car sharing or flexible systems. With the technology that we now have at our disposal we can match supply and demand.”
A concessional model with punctual liberalization
Now the bilateral negotiation period opens, but the future model will continue to be concessional. In other words, the routes will be put out to tender, with competition and a bidding process that will give rise to an exclusive concession for a maximum of ten years.
However, the Government, by agreement of the Council of Ministers, may decide on free competition, liberalization, of routes when conditions exist that justify it, although Transport does not break down which routes are currently being considered.