Freight News, Road

Belgians seal road charging deal

[ October 21, 2010   //   ]

The Belgian EU Presidency has pushed through an agreement on the revised Eurovignette Directive, which could trigger widespread reforms of lorry road user charging in Europe. According to Brussels sources, it could increase the average truck toll from the current 15-25 euro cents per kilometre by a further 3-4c.

The political deal, adopted by a qualified majority with Italy and Spain opposed and Ireland and the Netherlands abstaining, will allow second-reading negotiations to start after an 18-month delay.

Most of the objections to the deal came from peripheral member states whose freight transport costs are most likely to be increased by the new charging system. Central European countries, which bear the brunt of lorry transit traffic, are much better-disposed towards the measure.

The new agreement will allow, though not oblige member states to levy tolls on trucks that reflect  their ‘external’ costs, over and above existing infrastructure access charges allowed under the current Eurovignette Directive. These include the costs of air pollution and noise, but not congestion – although member states will be able to take it into account in their infrastructure charges.

Also, the directive requires that increased infrastructure charges at peak times must be compensated by lower off-peak charges and there is a maximum of five hours during which the higher charges can apply. Maximum variation in such charges will be 175% of the normal amount.

The new directive would also extend to the entire European motorway network – around 30,000km, rather than the 15,000km Trans-European Transport Network covered by the existing Eurovignette Directive.

The new directive will allow states to impose either motorway tolls or a tax disc system, but not both.

Another changes is that member states will be able to limit the scope of the directive to vehicles of 12 tonnes or more; the original intention was for it to apply to all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes from 2012.

There will also be exemptions for Euro 5 vehicles until the end of 2013 and for Euro 6 vehicles until the end of 2017.

In reaction, the President of the International Road Transport Union’s Goods Transport Liaison Committee to the EU, Alexander Sakkers, commented: “The Council has completely ignored all the taxes, charges and duties already paid by the road freight industry, as well as the enormous additional burden that these new charges will impose on the economies of individual Member States.”

Secretary General of the European Shippers’ Council added: “The impact of this proposal, if implemented, could be substantial for Europe’s economy, particularly in those regions where there is simply no viable or practical alternative to road freight transport.”

She pointed out that the Council is only looking at charging road freight and as yet cannot agree to deal with other modes of transport or passenger and private car use in the same way. ESC believes this compromise agreement is wrong and will not have any significant difference on the environment but will only result in more expensive freight transport.”

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