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Spain 2020 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

The objective of the ministry is to develop infrastructure, transport, and housing policy in which the right to mobility, access to decent housing, and safety are a priority.

José Luis Ábalos
BIOGRAPHY

José Luis Ábalos has gone through practically all the steps of the administration since his political career began. His first public responsibility was as cabinet director of the government delegate in the Valencian community in the first democratic government. Later, he was chief of staff of the department of labor and general director of international cooperation of the Generalitat Valenciana. He worked in municipal politics as an advisor to the Socialist Group in the city of Valencia before becoming councilor and provincial deputy. In 2009, he became a deputy in parliament, a position he held until his appointment as Minister of Development. Since 2017, he also has held the position of secretary of organization of PSOE.

What have been the main achievements of your mandate in 2019?
With regard to management, I have prioritized its rationalization and a reorientation of resources where they are most needed. We have made progress in this direction by promoting measures, investments, and projects aimed to improve quality of life. Among the main achievements, I would highlight the package of housing measures included in the Royal Decree Law on urgent measures regarding housing matters and rents. Some of the measures limit the rise in the rental price, the extension of three to five years of the mandatory extension of these contracts, measures aimed at improving information and market transparency, and specific procedures to deal with situations in which eviction affects vulnerable people or homes. In our commitment to mobility as a right, we have ensured the necessary investments for maintaining the system with high quality standards and guaranteeing user reliability, frequency, and punctuality. We have formalized the OSP contract with Renfe to guarantee an integrated, intermodal rail service offering until December 2027. Its approval has allowed us to address an ambitious EUR3-billion plan for the acquisition and renewal of rolling stock. We have also solved the problem of the motorways whose concession period ends in this legislature. In the international arena, we succeeded in getting the EU to approve the reform of the Atlantic and Mediterranean corridors. This means that important investments in Spanish infrastructure will be able to access European funds.

The Mediterranean Corridor is under development as a future freight corridor. How was the final proposal reached?
The investments in railways in general and the Mediterranean Corridor in particular fulfill an important social function of structuring the territory and must be considered state policy. This project will contribute to strengthening the Spanish economy in sectors including tourism, industry, agriculture, and logistics, among others. For this reason, we are concentrating efforts on offering a competitive service of passenger and freight transport by rail, focused on the needs and demands of customers, in terms of mobility and logistics. The territories through which the corridor passes must take advantage of the opportunity. We must not see infrastructures as an end in themselves, but as a tool to guarantee a service, improve quality of life, connect territories, create business opportunities, and boost economic growth.

The toll motorways and the radials stopped being profitable at the hands of private companies. How does the government intend to make them profitable again?
We have solved this situation by resolving the respective contracts and modifying the Highway Law to allow the State Company State Transport Infrastructure Company (Seitt) to collect tolls and manage these highways. From this point, we have encouraged the use of these roads. An increase in traffic will increase revenues, improve mobility and road safety, and make better use of infrastructure. For this, we have approved a generalized reduction of around 30%. We have already received the first satisfactory results with a 12% increase in average traffic since January.

What are the ministry's priorities for the coming months and the purposes for a new mandate?
For the ministry, one of the main priorities is to guarantee the right to housing, promoting the use of social rental housing, mobilizing public land that is available through the transfer of surface rights, and favoring the use of public-private mechanisms. Another fundamental priority is to carry out a new concept of mobility and inclusive transport, oriented to the user, and offering adapted mobility solutions for all, including integrated transport, where all the means are synchronized and sustainable in economic, environmental, and social terms. We must adopt a more advanced vision in the infrastructure policy, thinking more about the mobility it offers to the citizen, than in the construction of new infrastructures.