MADRID-The Spanish government has launched a 249-billion-euro ($300-billion) transport strategy that will link provincial towns through a network of rail and freeways. By extension, the strategy would make accessible a major new wave of development.

Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero says the 15-year plan will pave the way for high-speed travel between the country’s provincial capitals by road or rail without having to go through Madrid. He adds that the program would give Spain one of the “most advanced” infrastructure networks in Europe and would in turn boost the domestic economy.

Zapatero described the Strategic Infrastructure and Transport Plan as the “biggest effort” ever to be made in Spain to boost the country’s rail and road network. The plan calls for a massive development of rail, roads, airports and ports. The objective is to ensure that 94% of the country will be within 30 kilometers of a freeway and 90% of the population will have access to a high-speed rail connection within 50 kilometers of their homes when the program is complete in 2020.

Nearly half the funds will go to railways, including expanding and improving links with Europe. A little more than a quarter of the marked capital will be spent on expanding the road network. The biggest improvements are expected in the regions of Teruel, Ciudad Real, Salamanca, Cuenca, Soria, Zamora and Cáceres.

A government spokesperson said that the infrastructure program will “open up provincial capitals for development. Most of the major development in Spain has been in Madrid. This will open up the possibility of spreading the country’s wealth to smaller cities.” The cabinet is expected to approve the measures on Friday.

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