Monday, 17 January 2011

Vilanova, Barcelona and the Price for Our Love

Formally, Vilanova i la Geltrú belongs to the province of Barcelona, but one of the main arguments for creating a new, separate administrative unit - a vegueria Penedès - is that, de facto, we do not form part of the metropolitan geography. Historically, before the tunnels were built, we were separated by the mountains of Garraf. Nowadays, the barrier is of an economic nature: 5.74 € per direction is the toll we have to pay to take motorway C-32 to the Catalan capital.

Surely someone will say that € 5.74 is not much to complain about and I agree as long as we are talking about tourists or even Barcelona inhabitants driving to their monthly Sunday lunch in Sitges. But for all us who travel this route several times a week, it is hard to disregard the price. And yes, we can take the old road C-31 instead and marvel at its steep slopes into the sea. However, personally I try to avoid it; although it has recently been improved, I do not think that it meets modern traffic safety standards for commuters. And if you have children, it is not even an option; after twenty minutes in the sharp curves mine, at least, always feel sick.

The cost sharing established when C-32 was built is quite difficult to understand for a 'new Catalans' like me. The benefits, the relatively few of us here in Garraf share with all the people living on the other side of the mountains, along the coast in Baix Llobregat. The cost, however, has been allocated only to us. Hence, after having passed the highest toll in the whole of the Barcelona Province, we can enjoy the ride through the tunnels at 90 km/h, but once we come out again, the pleasure rapidly ends. Especially during rush hours the motorway gets jammed by the many drivers who enter it from Castelldefels, Gavà and Viladecans and who use it for free. Why?

And there are further peculiarities. Pay roads owned by Catalonia's Generalitat see annual price increases above the IPC, the Spanish equivalent of the CPI. Of the average increase of 3.4% which we saw January 1 this year, 2.3 points come from the IPC, while 1.3 points is a retroactive compensation to the concessionaire Abertis: until the year 2003, that company was not allowed to add full surcharges to cover for inflation and changes in the VAT rate.

It is a bit tragicomic that we now, in recession, have to pay the costs which politicians did not consider us able to bear during the previous boom years. Having said that, that is how the contract between the Generalitat and Abertis was made and agreements must be kept - pacta sunt servanda. What disturbs me, in the end, is not the average increase of 3.4%, but that we who commute on C-32 see an above average increase with as much as 5.9%. Why?

I know that I might seem grumpy but, in the end, the management of Abertis does not have anything to fear. "Year after year, the fees increase and, with the exception of some critical public statement ... one moves a finger to change this unfair situation which has been lingering for many years", we can read in the editorial of this year’s first Diari de Vilanova. And I promise to show how integrated I am. Just like my neighbours, I might write one or two angry, but of obviously anonymous, comments on Vilanova Digital, but then jump into the car and take C-32 as usual. Barcelona tries to keep us away, but we in Vilanova, are not easily discouraged. For the vision of a united Penedès, it cannot be healthy that our love for the big city is so strong.

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This post is also available in translations to Catalan and Spanish and in a Swedish version.
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Related earlier posts: A Dangerously Scenic Road from Barcelona to Sitges / Vistes perilloses
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Sources and Inspiration:

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