More funding for low-emission public transport


The objectives of decarbonization and air quality in cities require changing aspects such as the current transport model. In this transformation of urban environments, the Spanish recovery plan devotes a section (Component 1:”Action plan for sustainable, safe and connected mobility in urban and metropolitan environments”) to the measures that will be taken to facilitate less polluting modes of travel, the increase in the rate of electric mobility, and to support the investments required for the creation of low-emission zones in municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants. In this way, an improvement is guaranteed in the quality of life and air in areas with a larger population.

Aware of this great challenge, this component details the wide range of initiatives and investments in infrastructure planned to achieve the much-needed change towards a new model of travel. To this end, two elements are highlighted as necessary. On the one hand, the participation of all administrations, together with private initiative. On the other hand, the use of various mechanisms to obtain the funds required for this transformation.

The goal is to design a public transport system that is “reliable, attractive, accessible and affordable to all citizens” which incorporates new concepts such as smart mobility and the electrification of transport, promotes the use of the railway with the necessary investments, and takes full advantage of digitalization.

This component contributes 72.5% to the ecological transition and 2% to the digitalization of transport. The total estimated investment is 9,336 million euros. Of these, 6,523 million correspond to the Recovery and Resilience mechanism. The financing of the Plan will be carried out until the year 2026.

Along with the implementation of Low Emission Zones (LEZ) before 2013 in urban areas of more than 50,000 inhabitants – which represent more than 50% of the Spanish population – work is being done on those areas for the recharging infrastructure and the promotion of electric vehicles, as well as on the expansion of more sustainable modes such as the railway, which will be the beneficiary of large amounts of aid so that it gains greater prominence both in the networks of the city (metros, trams, etc.), and in the commuter train services.
The investments included in this component will have a strong impact on the economic activity and employment at national level during the years of the Plan. €11.1 billion of GDP and 154,000 jobs.


Component one includes an specific support line for the autonomous communities, municipalities, and companies, both public and private, borrowers of the different mobility systems. The objective of this investment, which amounts to 2.916 billion euros, is the implementation of sustainable and digital transformation projects of public transport networks. The expected result is that by the end of 2025, there will be at least 100 urban areas that will have been able to benefit from this aid aimed at reducing C02 emissions.

On the one hand, the transfers planned for the Spanish autonomous communities cost 0.90 billion euros. This includes low emissions financing, among which are those relating to collective travel. One of the main actions will be aimed at improving railway networks (extension, modernisation of lines, digitalization, etc.).




“Autonomous communities, municipalities and
transport service companies willbe able to benefit from the aids tomobility planned
to improve the quality of life in”.





Source: Own elaboration. Mafex Magazine.

As for the funds allocated to municipalities, there is an allocation of 1,5 billion euros. This amount will also boost Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP) and low emission zones (LEZ), especially in city centres. This line of aid gives great flexibility to local authorities to choose the specific actions that they consider to be priorities. Once again, the railway mode will be key, due to its many environmental advantages, to reduce emissions and as an alternative to the use of initiatives: global projects aimed at reducing emissions, measures for the sustainable transformation of collective transport, improvement of fleets and rolling stock, plans for the digitalization of public transport.

Initially they are aimed at municipalities of more than 50,000 inhabitants and provincial capitals, but, under certain conditions, they can also be used for towns with a population of between 20,000 and 50,000 inhabitants. In this case they can opt for digital and sustainable transformation projects.

Among the digitalization projects, the ultimate goal is for the initiatives of the municipalities to contribute to the reduction of emissions in urban transport. To this end, two types of subsidised projects have been envisaged. The first ones are those aimed at improving the service and the usage of public transport, as well as those associated with accessibility. This wide range of options includes technology for journey planning, traveller information systems, ticketing, and online ticket sale, etc. All this to make public transport more attractive to all types of users, to help it become the best alternative to private transport and thus reduce polluting emissions. In addition, the second block of measures that can benefit from these aids are those that have an impact on a better management of the Administrations. For example, implementation of smart systems for the coordination of traffic and mobility, supply of information on the transport offer to the National Access Point to the Multimodal Information, demand management, etc.

Source: Own elaboration. Mafex Magazine.

Transformation of passenger and goods fleets

Finally, there is a third line of subsidies whose goal is the transformation of fleets of passenger and goods. These funds are for private companies that provide transport services and have an endowment of 400 million euros. They will be convened by each autonomous community in its field of competence.

Most of these incentives aim to renew the fleet of heavy commercial vehicles for less polluting ones that incorporate new technologies in terms of propulsion. This is how alternative fuels (electric, LNG, CNG, biomethane) and the implementation of the necessary refuelling infrastructure are chosen. Although this action will allocate most of the funds, there are also plans to develop an intermodal transport with the railway mode as an alternative and complementary means to the road.

In this sense, there is specific aid so that companies can acquire or adapt trailers and semi-trailers so that they are suitable for use on long-haul freight rail

Source: Own elaboration. Mafex Magazine.


The major changes projected in mobility and the large volume of planned investments have led the Spanish Executive to draw up specific regulations in this regard. The “Law on Sustainable Mobility and Transport Financing” seeks to create the legal framework that defines the main lines of policy on this issue and that allows regulating transport-related activities. It is a regulatory tool with several purposes. On the one hand, it will introduce mechanisms to advance within a more sustainable urban mobility, through tools such as obligations, incentives, and guidelines. In addition, there will be more discipline around the planned actions in the field of infrastructures and services through mechanisms such as the “Instrument of State Strategic Planning in Mobility” (IPEEM) that will serve to set priorities, as well as informative studies of new infrastructures, prior and subsequent analysis of the profitability of investments. Likewise, measures to promote Innovation and digitalization will be articulated and a more coordinated and robust transport governance system will be created among all administrations (National Mobility System) that puts the citizen at the centre of decisions. At this point there are also plans to launch the Higher Council of Transport and Mobility, as an advisory body, debate, and participation, as well as a Comprehensive Information Platform to ensure the effectiveness of public policies in this area.

The Law envisages others such as a homogeneous system of contributions to local authorities for the financing of urban public transport from state funds or a possible payment system for the use of roads.

At this point, as recently pointed out by the Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez, the details of its drafting are being finalized and it is expected to be approved before the end of 2021.

One of the pillars that underpin this new law is sustainability and the need to commit to a decarbonized system where the least polluting collective transport, such as the railway, is prioritized. This regulatory framework, therefore, represents an opportunity to plan a modal shift in which investments in infrastructure for both goods and passengers are prioritized.