Older people in Briviesca know full well that there was a before and an after the construction of the AP1, which in my home was never called that way, it was always The Motorway. In a town where ‘everyone knows each other’, where when one spoke of someone the name was of little use – if anything, the nickname, inherited from generations, or ” is the son of…” – new people were known, for information purposes, “Mengano, you know, who came to work on The Motorway”.
Even then the traffic in “La General”, as the N1 was called, was full of trucks, too many trucks especially on Sundays, as our elders complained, when heavy vehicles were supposedly forbidden to circulate. But to us children it seemed normal, we had known nothing else, “La General” meant trucks. What we did not know was that it was so directly related to the exports of fruit to the whole of Europe, that we were taught in Social Sciences, or to the importance of the two northern sea ports, that we were taught in the History of Spain. Those lorries full of strawberries that sometimes French lorry drivers or farmers torched, many of them, had passed by La General next to our village – not on The Motorway, which we knew was there but didn’t seem to be used by anyone.
The population at the end of the seventies and eighties reached about two thousand inhabitants in Briviesca. Partly because of the factories that La Autopista and then the Polígono Industrial (which in the village we all call La Vega) had attracted, and also because many of those workers, with their families, stayed, and, at least in my house, their offspring were still known that way. ” What, you don’t know who I’m talking about? Yes man, the father brought the family, to make The Motorway”.
A motorway that was always too expensive for anyone of those who made it, neither my family, nor the families of my little friends at the time, to afford the luxury of using regularly. It was left to emergency situations, the personal and the hospital type of emergencies, the ambulances types of emergencies. In the past few years, between privatizations and cutbacks, the ambulances also stopped using the motorway to transport patients, so that the ambulance drivers became experts in overtaking trucks – more or less safely.
And so for more than forty years, while coming from Vitoria we saw banners for the liberalization of La Autopista on Miranda’s balconies, because those trucks, full of strawberries or oranges, constantly passed in front of their homes, in the middle of their city. And in Miranda they got it, that ‘their’ part of La Autopista was free, the Miranda ring road.
In Briviesca not all the trucks that came from Andalusia to the ports of Santander or Bilbao, or to France, passed through the town centre. Even before La Autopista, La General was taken from the village, just on the other side of the train tracks, which were on the other side of the river. The old General was renamed with two letters and three numbers, and only the most local traffic runs through it, and the other, the N1, is completely outside the village, and even if banners were placed on balconies nobody passing through the N1 would see them.
Be that as it may, the motorway has been a toll road for more than forty years since it was built. With many, too many deaths, as has already been written too much, here is just one example.
Until yesterday around eleven o’clock at night. By law it was going to be twelve o’clock, in the first minute of the first day of December, but when we went at half past eleven to witness the lifting of the barriers, they were gone. They had not been lifted, they had been removed.
Tears, flowers, cava wine, more tears. Very cold. From the esplanade with the payment barriers we went to the town hall to see the banner that demanded a free AP1 removed. And rightly so because it is now a dual carriageway.
More hugs. Colder. We had to wait for one of the spokesmen, Rafa, because he deserved the big moment in the Town Hall. The people of the Platform had spread out, through all the tolls of the Burgos-Miranda corridor, to see how the barriers were removed.
While we waited, another spokesman, Julio, thanked many people, collectives and companies, for five minutes without stopping, so many people have worked for this together, and said that sure he forgot names, so today at the party he will have them in paper.
And meanwhile, in these early hours of free motorway, you can already see that there is almost no traffic on the N1. “Three cars I counted in these fifteen minutes,” I was told today. In a stretch where only professionals counted the traffic, because any normal Saturday would see vehicles continuously, hopefully with the minimum safety distance between them.
There are many historical, geographical, economic reasons why there is so much traffic that it had to be provided in another way, parallel, free of charge. And there will be many reasons to rejoice in this free-of-charge, because even if we did not use La Autopista, or La Nacional, we all benefit directly when we buy things that have come by road, and the whole economy benefits from exports that also leave the country by road. So we are all users and beneficiaries. So thank you so much.