Case Studies: Eje Aeropuerto (M-12), Airport Axis Toll Motorway, Spain

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Project Overview

Figure1: Eje Aeropuerto (M-12) Airport Axis Toll Motorway, Spain

Eje Aeropuerto (M-12) Airport Axis Toll Road, Madrid, Spain
Project Type: Both
Contract Duration: 25 – 26 Years
Budget: EUR 358M (original)
Final construction cost: EUR 382M (approx.) excluding land expropriation.
Final projected investment: EUR 475 M
Project Time Line
Conception: 2000
Call for tender: 2002
Contract approved and signed: 2002


The Eje Aeropuerto or M-12 toll motorway is 9.4km long and provides access to the new Terminal 4 of the Madrid Bajaras Airport. It also provides an alternative route to the east of Madrid as it connects two important entry/exit points to the A-1 motorway and the A-2 motorway, at the M-40 intersection.

Approximately two kilometers run in a double tunnel under the Juan Carlos I Park. Emphasis was placed on security, and the M-12 was described as Europe’s best and safest motorway by the EuroTAp 2006 Programme (European Tunnel Assessment Programme).

The M-12 was awarded in 2002 to OHL Concessions, a member of the OHL Group (100%). The initial construction budget was EUR 358M, and the final construction budget approximately EUR 382M. However, due to additional payments related to land acquisition, the investment amount is still increasing. The last published annual accounts (2012) showed a total investment of EUR 444M. The concession is expected to end in 2027.

The M-12 opened to traffic in 2005. Concessionaire traffic gradually escalated to an average of 20,296 vehicles per day in 2007, but it has low down during last few years of economic downturn to 18,298 vehicles per day in 2012 and 17,884 in 2013, according with last published figures. However, traffic in the toll area was much lower, 7,200 vehicles per day in 2012 (first year this data is published) which represented a decrease by 8% from previous year. In 2013, this figure continues falling by 12% to 6,395 vehicles per day.

The Contracting Authority (Public Party)

The Ministry of Public Works is the responsible Authority on behalf of the public sector. In its activities it is supported by the:

  • Infrastructure Secretariat, a high level executive body set up to develop global infrastructure planning, carry out project screening and selection, and undertake final decision making;
  • Highways Department, responsible for regulatory requirements in the bidding process and technical coordination of the construction process;
  • Toll Motorways Delegation, responsible for monitoring contracts and renegotiations.

The Concessionaire (Private Party)

Autopista EJE AEROPUERTO C.E.S.A. is the concessionaire, through the SPV AEROPISTAS S.L.U. The initial sponsor group was created by OHL group (80%) and the Empresa Nacional de Autopistas (ENA) (20%). However, OHL Concessions is now the sole shareholder after some shareholding changes. The SPV was created to finance the project via equity.

Project financing is provided by a syndicated loan granted to the SPV by Banesto (Santander Group), the Spanish savings bank Caja Madrid, and the British Royal Bank of Scotland for up to EUR 282 M in several tranchesat year 2023, more than four years before the concession end. The main tranche (A) reaches EUR 257 M and aims to finance the sole shareholder contribution for the project investment.

There have been legal disputes with the grantor since the construction period, mainly due additional work requirements and cost overruns in the price of the land.

Actual traffic has been lower than expected since the beginning of the concession and the economic downturn has had a negative impact on the project. As a consequence, the concessionaire reported losses since 2012 .


The road is used as an alternative high-efficiency access motorway to the new Terminal 4 of the Madrid Bajaras Airport. The existing airport access was saturated and could not meet the high expected traffic requirements caused by the airport extension. It is also used as an alternative access to motorways A-1 and A-2, creating a new north-south axis, which has helped to reduce congestion in the north east of Madrid.

After the opening of the new road in 2005 average traffic volumes at the toll area were very low. Following the economic crisis, traffic levels fell to 7,200 vehicles per day in 2012 and 6,395 vehicles per day in 2013.

Key Purpose for PPP Model Selection

Restrictions on the public budget and the potential for revenues were the principal motivations for the use of the PPP model. The project complements the global infrastructure plan for the Madrid region, named Radiales de Madrid, which aims to provide alternative solutions for the existing saturated road network. The plan introduced the PPP model as a means of building new alternative access routes using direct tolls as the repayment mechanism.

Project Timing

The airport access road was conceived in the late 1990’s to reduce congestion in the existing N-II motorway corridor in the north east of Madrid and to gain a new access route to the expanded airport. The airport was expected to become one of Europe‘s largest, and was included in a new urban development area.

The tender call took place in March 2002 and the contract was signed within the same year.

Important dates for the projects may be summarized as follows:

  • Initial Call: March 2002;
  • Grant approved: 8 November 2002,
  • Creation of concessionaire: 10 December 2002;
  • Target date for initial operations: May 2004;
  • Financial close: 11 December 2003;
  • Actual start of operations: 15 June 2005.

Project Locality and Market Geography

The project is located in the outer urban area of Madrid. It serves traffic to the airport, and provides a new north-south axis.

The M-12 offers an alternative to the previously congested Bajaras Airport access though the A-2 national motorway and supports direct link to the new Terminal 4. In addition, the project complements the road transport network in the region and provides direct accesses to new housing developments in the north-east area of Madrid.

Procurement & Contractual Structure


The Spanish public works ministry, “Ministerio de Fomento”, launched an open call bidding process for an administrative concession for the construction, maintenance and operation of the toll road Eje Aeropuerto, from road M-110 to motorway A-10, from A-10 to M-40 ring road, the extension and improvements for the south access to Barajas airport, the A-1 partial broadening to three lanes from the Hortaleza link connection and the connection with the N-II alternative. This bidding followed the existing legislation in force, mainly Law 8/1972 of toll roads under concession model, Decree 215/1973 of general provision standards, and the Legislative Royal Decree 2/2000 that collects the Public Administration procurement texts.

The open call process for the project tendering was detailed in an specific administrative standard format approved in by a Ministerial Order in March 2002.

Participants were consortia made up of construction companies, operators and financial entities. Contract award was made on the basis of the “most advantageous” offer.

The contract was awarded relatively quickly in November 2002 by Royal Decree to the consortium created by the constructor “Obrascon Huarte Lain, S.A. (OHL)” and the operator “Empresa Nacional de Autopistas, S.A. (ENA)” and the project was expected to be in operation by July 2003.

Contract Structure

The contract is a typical BOT using the design offered by the Ministry of Public Works/Highways Department. However it includes interesting economic and financial innovations such as flexibility to extend the concession period, and an option for early exit. In addition, technological innovations in the main tunnel construction and the adoption of free flow electronic devices contributed to the project being awarded a European prize and gaining international recognition.

The original budget was EUR 350M. However the total investment is still increasing and is expected to be more than EUR 475M due to additional works and deviations in price of land use.

The remuneration scheme was based on user tolls, in the range of EUR 1.95- 2.45. Tolls are regulated by the government and indexed to inflation rates.

The contract has been renegotiated due to legal disputes and several issues, which caused cost overruns. As a result, the grantor offered some short-term financial support with a minimum revenue guarantee (three years) and participative loans provided after a compensation process. However this support was not eventually implemented.

Moreover, due to the fall in traffic levels following the economic crisis, the project is unable to generate sufficient cash flow to meet debt service requirements and payments for the increased price of land. As a consequence, the concessionaire has filed an insolvency procedure that is currently under consideration, and negotiations with the main stakeholders are taking place in order to find a viable solution.

Risk Allocation

Risk allocation does not seem to be expressly written in detail but it may be derived from general and specific administrative procedures and regulation. This is presented in Figure 2.

Design is predetermined in the draft project prepared by the Pubic Administration but the concessionaire has to elaborate the final construction project. The Highways department monitors the construction standards and requirements and approves whichever minor technical modification. Therefore, Design and construction risks are private but the concessionaire must follow the project design already defined by the grantor. Only additional works ordered by the grantor which are not included in the original project have to be compensated.

Maintenance, commercial and financial risks are transferred to the private sector.

Although not always clear, some general provisions included in the regulation suggest the regulatory risks are public. Two main provisions are the following:

  • Public Administration Liability, applicable for some cases of early termination
  • Economic and Financial Equilibrium, to compensate any damage arising from the Public Administration action.

However, expropriation risk originally transfer to private, in the end, given the huge deviation, is being assumed by the public sector.

In the event of force major the public sector assumes the risk and therefore the risk is kept in the public side.

The Public Administration may support projects under adverse conditions, as has been the case for Autopista Eje Aeropuerto related to two main issues: the huge deviation in price for the land acquisition and the traffic drop derived from the dramatic economic downturn.

Indeed, by the end of 2009 the Spanish Government set a mechanism to provide financial support through public participative loans instruments to compensate deviations in land expropriation price exceeding 175% the projected rates for the payments to take place after January 2010.

Similarly, by the end of 2010, the Government implemented a temporary compensation account, as minimum revenue guarantee (MRG) to cover 80% of the projected traffic through same participative loan instruments.

Nevertheless these two mechanisms were subject to availability in the annual public budgets. Due to strong public budget limitations, funds were only paid in 2012 for the compensation account, but this financial support was not provided to the concessionaire in the following years.

Figure 2: Original risk allocation


A traffic forecast was offered by the state in the tender documents. The wining offer included a new traffic forecast, which has been used as a reference for potential renegotiations.

The concessionaire placed the emphasis on safety, and a number of innovations were included in the project. Key performance indicators concern maintenance standards, to ensure high quality and comfort. The technology used in the tunnel allowed it to be evaluated as the safest one in Europe by EuroTAP Program.

No performance KPI are set and only some general requirements for operation and maintenance are in place.Since operations started traffic performance has been poor, well below the forecast, and users’ reluctance to pay tolls has been evident, especially for taxis which were supposed to be the main users. There was a two-year ramp up period in the forecast, but this was insufficient to capture the initial build-up of traffic and its decline since the economic downturn.

On November 2013, the concecionaire and its parent company, jointly petitioned for voluntary insolvency proceeding to be initiated, which was later accepted by the Commercial Court and published in the Official State Gazette.


  • Aseta (2012). Toll roads in Spain
  • Autopista Eje Aeropuerto, SACE , SAU (2012). Cuentas anuales e Informe de gestión 2012.
  • Ministerio de Fomento (2011 and 2012). Annual report on toll road sector in Spain.
  • Ministerio de Fomento (2012). Traffic in toll road. Monographic report.
  • Official State Gazette (2002): Specific Administrative procedures for Autopista Eje Aeropuerto tender and Granting approval Decree.
  • OHL Concesiones, S.A. (2013). Consolidated financial statements report for 2013.
  • F. J. Villalba-Romero, C. Liyanage, 2014, Eje Aeropuerto (M-12), Airport Axis Toll Motorway, in A. Roumboutsos, S. Farrell and K. Verhoest, COST Action TU1001 – Public Private Partnerships in Transport: Trends & Theory: 2014 Discussion Series: Country Profiles & Case Studies, ISBN 978-88-6922-009-8