Traffic still slowing in southern Europe

But at a less rapid pace in most places compared with last year.

Ratings agency Moody’s reported yesterday that traffic is still slowing down across Southern Europe, albeit at a less harsh pace than in 2012. 

Italy’s Atlantia fared best, recording a 2.6 percent drop in domestic traffic for the first half of 2013 versus an 8 percent drop in the first half of 2012 followed by fellow Italian concessionaire SIAS, which saw traffic contract across its domestic network by 4.3 percent during H1 2013 compared to 8.1 percent during the same period last year. 

Portugal’s Brisa recorded a decline of 6.3 percent across its Portuguese road concessions, a marked improvement on the 15.3 percent traffic decline registered during H1 2012. For Spain’s Abertis, though, traffic continued to decline at roughly the same pace as during the first half of last year, at around nine percent. 

“Declines in traffic volumes in Portugal, Spain and Italy have been significantly larger than the contraction in GDP [gross domestic product]. This is because constrained household budgets are primarily driving declines in the use of tolled motorways,” Moody’s wrote in yesterday’s note. 

It added that “since the onset of the global financial crisis in 2007, the largest toll roads in Italy have lost an average of 10 percent in traffic, whereas BCR’s [Brisa’s] Portuguese network and Abertis’ Spanish network have each reported declines of around 30 percent”. 

French concessionaires, on the other hand, have fared much better, with ASF posting a modest 0.7 percent growth during H1 compared to a 1.9 percent drop in H1 2012. APRR saw its traffic volume increase by 0.2 percent during the first half of the year versus a 1.6 percent decline a year ago. Only SANEF – coincidentally, also owned by Abertis – recorded negative traffic of 1.3 percent for the first half of the year compared with a 2.9 percent drop in 2012. 

Moody’s attributes the better performance of French roads to “a diversification of traffic owing to their connecting various European destinations.” The ratings agency also noted French networks have recorded “flat performance” since the onset of the global financial crisis, although “heavy goods vehicle traffic and corresponding French volumes remain around 12 percent below 2007 levels”. 

Overall, Moody’s expects traffic declines to continue across Europe’s so-called “periphery” with French toll roads remaining “resilient with broadly flat traffic volumes this year”.