Sustainable mobility: a challenge for the public and private sector with legal developments on the horizon

Spain - 

Garrigues experts in the areas of transportation, logistics and mobility analyze the main regulatory challenges in the field of mobility, led by Alfonso Cuenca, legal adviser to the Spanish Parliament, Director of Studies of the Lower House of the Spanish Parliament and legal adviser to the Lower House Committee on Transportation, Mobility and the Urban Agenda.

Achieving more sustainable mobility is one of the major goals pursued at global, European and national level. A variety of legislation has been approved at all levels in recent years, with many new regulations in the pipeline that are certain to have a huge impact on transportation and closely-related fields, such as logistics.

In this context, Javier Manchado and Jabier Gómez, partner and principal associate, respectively, of the Administrative Law, Planning and Zoning and Environmental Law practice of Garrigues, and Alfonso Cuenca, legal adviser to the Spanish Parliament on the Committee on Transportation, Mobility and the Urban Agenda of the Lower House, have together analyzed the prolific current regulatory framework concerning sustainable mobility and the main new developments, in a new edition of the Garrigues Sustainable dialogs.

“Sustainable mobility poses a real challenge in today’s world which we will undoubtedly only be able to successfully address if the public sector, businesses and the public make a joint and coordinated effort,” explained Manchado during the event in which they took an in-depth look at the most relevant aspects of the draft legislation being prepared in Spain in this area and, specifically, the Sustainable Mobility Bill sent by the Council of Ministers to the Lower House in December 2022.

Cuenca began his comments by recalling that “major industrial revolutions have always gone hand in hand with innovations in transportation,” adding that in recent years Covid-19 has highlighted the crucial importance of transportation and the much broader concept of mobility (a more human-centered approach) when it comes to exercising a series of rights. “Now the focus is on promoting ever cleaner transport,” he pointed out.

With respect to the Bill, which has already begun its passage though the Lower House and should see the light before the end of the second session of 2023, he explained that “it aims to create a truly national system in the area of sustainability with the involvement of all sectors.”

As regards the essential aspects of the Bill, he indicated that, first of all, it constitutes the “enshrinement in law of the right to mobility as a collective citizens’ right, forming a basis for the exercise of basic rights such as freedom of movement, the right to health or the right to environmental protection.” Moreover, “it creates and regulates a national system of sustainable mobility, it establishes major obligations for private operators and municipalities in terms of sustainable mobility planning, and it introduces new provisions as regards the need to carry out a thorough analysis of the planning, in terms of economic and financial returns, of the major infrastructure projects embarked on in Spain in recent years,” among other relevant aspects.

On the role to be played by regional governments and local authorities, Cuenca explained that the Bill introduces various instruments to provide the backbone of the national sustainable mobility system. It creates “a sector-wide conference on transport with cooperation and coordination functions to ensure the maintenance of a common transportation system for the entire nation.” A sustainable mobility administrative forum will also be created, made up of the sector-wide conference and local government entities, at which municipalities with more than one million inhabitants must be represented. The sustainable mobility high council is also included as an advisory and consultative body, bringing in academic experts, civil society and union representatives of businesses in the sector.

At local level, he indicated that the Bill extends the obligation to have a sustainability mobility plan to municipalities with between 20,000 and 50,000 inhabitants, but he clarified that these plans will be of a simplified nature and municipalities will not be required to have them in place until one year after the entry into force of the law. “Municipalities have been the architects of sustainable mobility in Spain and the Bill takes this into account,” he stressed.

As regards the private sector, he noted a major new development in the Bill: employers will soon have very specific obligations to have mobility plans for the movement of people, employees and customers, to and from large centers of activity or workplaces. For example, a mobility manager must be appointed at large centers of activity, and workplaces with at least 500 workers (or 250 per shift) must have specific mobility plans which will be negotiated with union-elected representatives.

During the discussion, the situation of public service concession companies was also addressed, with Manchado indicating that they are watching the new developments very closely. Among other new features, Cuenca explained that “provision is made for the approval, within 1 year, of a new concession map of scheduled road passenger transport routes to replace the current map, with the aim of ensuring the state-controlled supply of public transport by road better reflects the new mobility needs of citizens,” and “all state-controlled concessions included on such map must be awarded within 2 years of its approval,” “with certain rules being established as regards the continued provision of services by the current concession holders in some cases.”

Jabier Gómez, in turn, asked about the regulation in the Bill of new mobility, the charging of electric vehicles, etc. Cuenca explained that the Bill addresses, for example, collaborative mobility or ride sharing, without prejudice to the fact that peer-to-peer platforms may also be regulated, and he noted future regulatory challenges to be overcome, such as those raised by driverless vehicles. He also mentioned that one of the main new features of the Bill is the establishment of controlled test environments or sandboxes for experimenting with the regulation of new modes of transport. The Bill sets out how both project developers and the public authorities involved will submit proposals for regulatory reforms to ensure that future legislation incorporates the practical vision of market operators.

Gómez also inquired about the modernization of infrastructure contemplated by the Bill as a set objective. Alfonso Cuenca responded that, as indicated in the preamble, the Bill refers at length to the need to invest above all in maintaining and improving existing infrastructure, rather than creating new infrastructure.

Lastly, Javier Manchado invited the legal adviser to offer some insight into the regulation of logistics-related matters in the Bill, placing special emphasis on current issues such as the use of automated robots and drones to deliver orders and goods. Cuenca pointed out that “there is a very specific reference in the Bill to logistics and freight transport and it recognizes the need to improve competitiveness in the sector. The Bill also sets out the concept of logistics hubs, providing added value to transport.”