On 10 August 2012 the European Commission launched a consultation on charging for use of road infrastructure. The consultation is open until 4 November 2012.

The consultation is intended to assist the European Commission in considering new initiatives on road charging. This was signposted in the 2011 White Paper on Transport.  The European Parliament and the Council has asked the EU Commission to report on the measures that can be taken to internalise the external costs in all transport modes. The starting premise is that all users should pay at least the marginal costs of the wear and tear of infrastructure and the main external costs (such as noise, pollution and congestion). Essentially this is moving more closely towards the “user/polluter pays” principle.

The consultation should be of interest to not only road users (both direct and indirect commercial users and private users) but also to vehicle manufacturers, those involved in the leasing of vehicles and in emissions’ abatement and transport data technology, public and private procurement professionals, investors, financiers and contractors in transport infrastructure.

Responses to the consultation may be submitted via an online questionnaire or by email to move-road-charging@ec.europa.eu or by post. 

Why focus on road transport?

The perceived difference between road and other modes of transport is that road charging is voluntary in some instances under EU legislation. Whereas limited road charging of heavy goods vehicles is regulated by the Eurovignette Directive (Directive 1999/62/EC on charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures, as amended), road charging of cars, light goods vehicles and motorbikes is generally not regulated across the EU (subject to the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of nationality and the principle of proportionality). This may lead to inconsistency across Europe, lack of transparent price signals supporting fair and efficient use of infrastructure and importantly a deficit between the cost of financing road infrastructure and the available funding.

The Commission is considering whether distance based charging should be based according to the axle load of the vehicle, toll rates aligned to journey time, differing day and season charges and whether road charges might be aligned with environment performance to incentivise the use of cleaner vehicles.

Financing

The Commission has estimated that 1.5 trillion Euro over 20 years is the minimum investment needed to reflect transport demand. With public spending on transport infrastructure generally decreasing, road charging schemes are seen as an opportunity to secure revenue flow in a fair way. The ability to recover some construction costs is also being considered to encourage private investment in Public Private Partnerships. 

Treatment of Greenhouse Gas emissions

Road transport is stated to account for nearly 75% of the total GHG emissions from all transport in the EU. The documents accompanying the consultation note that it is accepted that the cost of GHG emissions are best internalised through other instruments such as fuel taxes but that in the absence of a clear GHG component in national fuel taxes, it may be appropriate to allow Member States the option of internalising the costs of GHG emissions through distanced based charges (tolls) or time based charges (vignettes).

Documents

For access to the consultation document click here

Please click here to view the 2011 White Paper on Transport "Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a Competitive and Resource-Efficient Transport System", COM (2011)144